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account: Events of Wednesday 13th September, 2006 - ZCTU demonstration
September 24, 2006
View audio file details
At about 10am on Wednesday Traffic
and Riot Police had already started diverting traffic away from
Nelson Mandela Avenue around Construction House, where the ZCTU
demonstration was due to start at 12 midday.
On my arrival in the vicinity at 11.45
am there was a heavy Riot police presence. I sat for over an hour
watching them. There were a number of MDC and ZCTU
officials and activists waiting around Bakers Inn. The Riot Police
were without doubt going to provoke a situation. They were stopping
passersby and questioning them and in many cases grabbing their
arms aggressively, and telling them to get out of the area.
The demo finally started around 1pm
with about 12 people singing and dancing in the street. It was over
in seconds. The demonstrators were ordered to sit down and then
the Riot police went beserk. They beat the people so viciously and
brutally it was a terrible and shocking spectacle to witness. I
feared for their lives. All the Policemen raised their baton sticks
way above their heads and then brought them down in full force against
the peoples bodies. listen to audio
I was seen to be taking photo’s by
a CIO operative who pulled me aside to question me. Grace Kwinje
distracted him and gave me the "disappear" look! I hid
in a nearby Bank and when I thought the coast was clear, slipped
out and went round the corner. The next minute there was a tsunami
of bodies surging panic stricken past me. Before I could turn around
I was hit by a baton stick on the back by one of three Riot cops
telling me I was under arrest. I refused to hand over my camera
or my cell phone. Having been told to switch off my phone, I called
Iain and left the phone open so he could hear what was going on.
Fortunately we passed Tendai Biti so I was able to advise him of
the situation. While climbing into the open Land Rover I saw that
Grace Kwinje had also been arrested.
As we were driving past Harvest House
(MDC) the Land Rover screeched to a halt and five of the six Riot
cops leapt out and just grabbed passersby and a few people who were
standing watching us, and proceeded to beat them shouting "what
are you doing on the streets?". Having satisfied their lust
for violence once again, they jumped back in and we were then handed
over to the CIO just outside the Anglican Cathedral. Again I was
told to hand over my camera but refused to do so – I said I would
only hand it to a senior Police detail if I were to be charged.
listen to audio
There were two suited Chinese gentlemen
with cameras standing on the steps of the Cathedral, smiling – waiting
for what? The demo was supposed to end outside Parliament. It did
make me wonder if their suppression of dissent tactics in China,
ending in the massacre of Tianamen Square, is being leant to the
Mugabe regime? Their involvement in Operation Murambastvina
was visible ie. military uniformed Chinese men seen in the Army
vehicles at the sites of destruction was ominous to say the least.
We were then taken to Harare Central
Police station where we met up with the ZCTU leaders and members
already arrested. The station car park was teeming with Police and
riot members and we were heavily guarded! It was brought to our
attention over the next few days that we had been referred to as
"ZCTU terrorists bent on killing the President". One fails
to be able to connect a peaceful demonstration to terrorism, unless
ZANU PF has added a new word to its dictionary.
Having been officially booked into
the holding cell-block we awaited the arrival of our lawyers. Access
to our lawyers was denied. The lawyers spent five hours at the Station
attempting to gain access to us, their clients. It was flatly refused.
We were also denied the opportunity to speak with our relatives
when they brought us food and water. listen to audio
The following are the Human Rights
abuses encountered in the Harare Central Police cells:
- Access to legal practitioners denied.
- Brutal and savage torture and beating
of prisoners (Matapi Police Station).
- Access to relatives denied.
- No food or water offered by Police.
- No blankets supplied.
- Very little light, mostly kept in
- Extreme verbal abuse and in some
cases prisoners kicked or hit with a broken hosepipe.
- All the toilets in the cells were
overflowing with human excreta.
- The majority of the cells had raw
sewage covering the floor and overflowing into the passages.
- No access to water for drinking
The stench was so stifling that it
caught in the back ones throat and eventually stuck there. As prisoners
we were not allowed to wear our shoes, which meant we were walking
in raw sewage. With very little lighting it meant it was impossible
to avoid stepping into this disgusting filth. We brought this to
the attention of the duty Police Officers and were told "those
are the rules". Some prisoners wrapped their feet in bread
packets but were told to "pfeka mapackets". listen
As we were taken up to the top of the
building for our first roll call, our eyes were adjusting to the
darkness on the first floor, when we heard a roar of excitement
and singing and we then realized we were in jail with our WOZA sisters.
It was a heart warming welcome to the world of detention! Arms came
flying through the bars and there were hugs all round till the Officer
with his "rova pipe" (piece of hose pipe used for beating)
shouted to us to move on.
Due to the uninhabitable state of the
cells we were all left with no option but to "sleep" on
the concrete floor in the passage. There were about forty WOZA women
so we all squashed up together for warmth and to keep out of the
way of the sewage creeping along the passage.
toilet has a tap above it to flush the contents away, but there
was no water.
The first morning I saw a civilian
cleaner and asked him to show me where the water source was. Once
I knew, I was able to get water to flush out the toilet in only
one cell. Cleaning it was not a pleasant task but I felt if we were
to be there for a few days we had to have some place for a "comfort
break"! However it was soon back to where it was in the beginning
so Grace took her turn as the "plumbing consultant".
We even managed to get a bottle of
Sanpic in with our food pack, as well as Doom Spray to kill the
tsikitsi (bed bugs). One of our group captured about fifty of these
bugs and placed them in a plastic packet to be kept as "Exhibit
The duty officers were cussed constantly
by the ZCTU inmates, for their lack of professionalism, their abusive
manner, the police violence, the inhuman conditions in the cells
etc. One of the younger ZCTU members got very vociferous at one
of the roll calls and was threatened with a beating "ndichakurova".
He just yelled back, "you can beat me all you like, you are
not Policemen, you are just thugs in uniform". Am sure
they were pleased to see our backs!
On Thursday we were not formally charged
and our fingerprints were not taken. We still had not been accessed
by the lawyers.
By now we had heard that the ZCTU leadership
and an MDC senior official had been detained at the notorious Matapi
Police Station at Mbare. That Station is a well- known torture center
and has been condemned by the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe as "unfit
for human habitation". That night – we thought about 9 pm,
the Matapi contingent were moved to join us at Central. It was a
pitiful sight to see those 14 physically and mentally battered and
brutalized figures appearing. Three could hardly walk or stand.
The solidarity and comraderie was tangible as we all shook hands
or hugged our friends and offered our deepest empathies. They told
us of their ordeal and how they had been told on arrival at Matapi
by the Police (Army?) details "we are not trained to write
dockets, we are trained to kill". They were taken two at a
time into a room and brutally beaten by five men with knobkerries
and long baton sticks for up to twenty minutes.
It was clear that they were all in
desperate need of Medical attention, which had been denied them
at Matapi Police Station.
The Duty Officer made arrangements
for their removal to Parirenyatwa Hospital and the pitiful group
shuffled out with some hope of relief in their hearts. Many hours
later they all returned, bandaged, X-rayed, and obviously all still
in great pain.
To have to "sleep" or sit
on the filthy concrete floors for hours through the night and the
next day must ave been agony for them, not to mention the time spent
in worse conditions at Matapi.
Friday morning, the documentation and
fingerprinting procedures started. The Police detail doing the fingerprinting
was excellent at his job and soon got through all 20 of us very
quickly. Time was of the essence as we had to get to Court before
3pm in order to apply for Bail. The option of remaining in the cesspool
over the weekend was a bleak one. However there were other Officers
who were not so efficient and there was a definite push by the CIO
to delay matters in order to keep us in custody.
We saw our lawyers for the first time
that morning and were given great hope when one of them showed us
the High Court Order she had obtained saying that if we were not
brought before the Courts by 1600hours on Friday, then the Police
were ordered to release us. Many of us know from previous
experience that Police seldom comply with High Court Orders, especially
if the men in dark glasses are involved!
Once the documentation was completed
we were taken back to the cells to be released. This can only be
done if the Investigating Officer (IO) is present to book and sign
each prisoner out, so we were accompanied by a Sergeant who was
to stand in for the IO. Also booking out a prisoner (presumably?)
was a CIO operative.
He was heard quite clearly saying to
the Sergeant "get out of here before I arrest you". In
a flash and a blur, the Sgt. was gone. Proof that the Presidents
Office was doing all in its power to delay our release. Well there
was nearly a riot.
We were eventually all booked/signed
out, collected our property and herded out to the car park. Time
was clearly running out. 24 of us were squashed into a Land Rover
and a pick up truck and the doors closed. Then! The IO finds that
he is one statement short and we all need to debus so he can take
the final statement.
This elicited a rowdy cussing of Police
unprofessionalism and delaying tactics from all of us. It was now
about 2.45pm and we were understandably getting agitated.
A lawyer was present so the remaining
statement was duly taken (or found!?) and we were off to court escorted
by the wailing siren of a Police B-car.
Were we high profile dangerous criminals
or was someone trying to expedite our arrival at the Courts? I like
to think the latter.
As we drove out of the station our
truck erupted in song and this continued all the way to the Courts.
On the steps of the Court were a group of people including journalists,
members of the Diplomatic corps,well-wishers and members of the
ZCTU.Eventually at 4.10pm the
case opened. The Court was jam packed. It was very encouraging to
see ones relatives there, but especially leaders such as Morgan
Tsvangirai, President of the MDC and Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, Chairman
of the National Constitutional Assembly.
Two lawyers, with two assisting lawyers,
led the defense case in a concise and professional manner. The Prosecutor
then presented the State’s case. He claimed that the accuseds had
used derogatory statements referring to Police as "mugabes
dogs", that they had disrupted traffic at a busy time of day
(Police had been diverting traffic for hours) and generally disturbed
the peace. He went on to say "further to that they (the accuseds)
had caused some Policemen to sustain injuries and had damaged some
Police vehicles". Well there was a spontaneous eruption of
laughter from all present, including many of the large number of
Police and Prison officers in the courtroom. Coming from a supposedly
intelligent man that was the most ludicrous
statement to make, and just goes to
show how desperate the State is to attempt to make a "terrorist"
trial out of absolutely nothing.
The highest penalty for the charge
proffered against us, if found guilty, would be a fine not exceeding
$2,000 (two thousand dollars). The State did not oppose bail but
wanted the following bail conditions imposed:
- surrender travel documents
- deposit of $20,000
- twice weekly reporting to Harare
Central Police Station.
The defense argued the unreasonableness
of the conditions, which were eventually set at bail of $20,000
and Friday reporting to the Police Station. The accused persons
were remanded until the 3rd October. 2006.
My experience with the majority of
the Police Officers (duty Policemen, militia in Police uniform and
CIO operatives) and Prison officers, has shown that the indoctrination
has been deeply entrenched in the younger members. There is a total
lack of respect for human rights, their behavior is extremely aggressive
and abusive, verbally and physically. To see these people enjoying
sadistic and brutal savagery says something about our country at
this time. Sadly this is the order of the day.
To end on a positive note there were
a couple of "old school" Police and Prison Officers who
were professional, compassionate to those brutalized, and fair in
their treatment. Thank God for those few, it keeps hope alive.
My belief is that God puts us in certain
places at certain times for a reason. I have learnt a great deal
in the past few days, and it has made me even more committed to
our beloved country, to see democratic change, and the rebuilding
of so many shattered lives, hopes and dreams.
Where there are witnesses to brutality,
there will eventually be accountability and justice.
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