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Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign
beatings - what really happened, top journalist speaks
March 18, 2007
I WISH to bring to public attention
certain incorrect information which was contained in a Zimonline.com
story which was also carried on this website (thezimbabwetimes.com),
giving an eye witness account of how a particular police officer
based at Machipisa Police Station witnessed the brutal assault on
MDC officials and supporters.
The story said Arthur Mutambara, the
president of a faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, was
assaulted, but not seriously.
I spent Sunday and Monday night in
the same cell with him; he was never assaulted, as alleged by the
Machipisa police officer quoted in the story. In fact, after his
arrest Mutambara was never taken to Machipisa where the assaults
took place. He was taken directly to Harare Central Police Station
and then to Avondale Police Station where I spent Sunday and Monday
nights with him in the same cell.
There was not a single scratch on his
face, his head or anywhere else on his body. There was absolutely
nothing on him and that's a fact. He was actually asking us about
how people had been beaten about. Our two other cellmates, both
supporters of the Morgan Tsvangirai faction, Todiyi Todiyi and Chemhere
asked Mutambara how come he had not been assaulted.
He said he was lucky to be taken to
Harare Central, where he wasnot subjected to any beating. Mutambara
and his colleagues were driving separately in Highfields where they
were arrested, but they were taken to Central. The Tsvangirai group
was taken to Machipisa and that is where the assaults took place.
That is where I was taken. I witnessed the assaults.
In fact, as far as I could see and
remember, most of the leaders from the Mutambara faction, among
them Job Sikhala, were never assaulted or hurt in any way. The second
point I would like to bring out is that contrary to the policeman's
testimony, the MDC president, Morgan Tsvangirai and the rest of
the leaders and supporters who were brought and assaulted at Machipisa
Police Stations, were never at any point blindfolded before being
taken out of the station.
My own ordeal started as I was driving
in Highfields with my colleague, Tendai Musiyazviriyo, on that fateful
day. The whole place was deserted, shops having been forcibly ordered
to close by the police around 8 am in the morning. The police presence
was heavy on the streets. After driving around for about 45 minutes
we were eventually stopped near Cyril Jennings Hall.
Six armed police officers, two of them
women, told us to get out of the car.
They asked us to identify ourselves
and we immediately brought out our valid press cards. For the record,
I am fully accredited with the Media and Information Commission
as a freelance journalist and have been accredited since 2003. Upon
presentation of the cards we were pushed to the ground and told
to lie down and then they suddenly started beating us.
I remember trying to reach for my cell-phone
which was lying on the tarmac. It was smashed to the ground by a
woman police officer who then kicked me in the mouth. I started
to bleed from the mouth and the nose. The beating suddenly stopped.
I was told to surrender the car keys before we were handcuffed and
thrown onto the back of a police truck. As we drove to Machipisa
Police Station, heads down, we were accused of being sellouts and
puppets of the West and also of working together with the political
When we arrived at the police station
we were told to get out of the police vehicle and to join about
10 people who were lying on the ground in the station grounds. We
just stood there in utter disbelief. We were shoved to the ground,
handcuffed and the beating started again. I have never experienced
so much pain in my life and I honestly thought I was going to die.
After the beating, which was mainly concentrated on my back and
buttocks, they removed the handcuffs. We were ordered to march into
the charge office. I did not march; I ran as fast as I could but
was tripped by a police officer who apparently thought I was trying
to run away.
I fell to the ground, quickly got up
and entered the charge office. I remember seeing a police officer
bringing our smashed camera equipment and dropping it on the floor
in the charge office.
A woman officer began to take details
of our particulars and equipment. I could not talk as I was in so
much shock and pain. Tendai told them my name. The MDC president,
Tsvangirai, then arrived at the police station, accompanied by William
Bango. They were ordered to join their supporters who were lying
on the ground in the fenced area of the station. Tsvangirai was
the first to be attacked, being set upon even before he was ordered
down. Our details recorded, we were
ordered to go out and join Tsvangirai and the others. I remember
entering the fenced area and seeing Tsvangirai being struck several
times with batons. He did not scream. I thought I was dreaming,
as I could not imagine this was happening to such an important and
respected man in Zimbabwe.
He just lay there and tried to raise
his hands to defend his head from the blows. He kept on uttering
the words, "Chii nhayi? Chii nhayi?" (What is it? What is it?).
For the next hour or so were subjected
to the most excruciating torture I have ever experienced in my life.
I felt sorry for Sekai Holland who was brutally assaulted several
times and also for a one-legged MDC supporter on crutches who was
repeatedly beaten. I remember him crying out for his sons, thinking
he might never see them again. Grace Kwinjeh was lashed with a whip.
A belt with metal studs caught her on the ear. A part of the ear
nearly came off. The women were very brave. They never screamed.
When the beating stopped we were told to get back onto the truck.
The vehicle had been parked in the open exposed to the sun for hours.
I remember very well from the temperature
reading in my car that it was around 36 degrees on that day and
to be told to lie down on the metal floor of an open truck that
had been parked in the sun was like jumping into a frying pan. A
cool breeze of air came as a relief when the truck started to move.
Our first stop was Harare Central Police Station where we were told
to get off and again lie on the tarmac for about another hour. A
senior police officer instructed that we should go to a water tap,
two at a time, to wash the blood from our faces and elsewhere on
our bodies. I don't know whether this was done out of sympathy or
whether they wanted us to remove the bloody evidence of the beatings
which we had experienced.
I remember helping Tsvangirai to his
feet; he could hardly stand up. But he collapsed. Someone brought
a cup of water which he poured on his face and he regained consciousness.
Everyone who could walk was given a chance to wash themselves. Then
they started taking down our names. Blood continued to ooze out
of my nose and mouth. The washing did not stop the bleeding from
Lovemore Madhuku’s head and the large cut on Tsvangirai's head.
Blood flowed freely from an open wound below the knee of Tsvangirais
bodyguard. The blood cloated eventually. It was obvious most of
the injured people needed to be rushed to hospital.
This did not happen, however. Instead
we were ordered an hour later to get back onto the police truck.
Our next stop was Borrowdale Police Station where Tsvangirai and
three other people were dropped off. From there we proceeded to
Malborough Police Station where Lovemore Madhuku, Job Sikhala and
other people including my colleague, Tendai were dropped off. I
was dropped off at Avondale Police Station with Sekai Holland, Todiyi
Todiyi and Chemhere. Initially they dropped off William Bango. Then
one of the policemen said Bango should jumpback onto the truck as
they did not want him in the same cell with Mutambara. Mutambara
arrived later and joined Todiyi, Chemhere and me in the same cell.
Unforunately Mai Holland, who is 64, fell from the truck when the
police ordered her to get off. She could hardly walk.
The truck proceeded, or so I later
learnt, to Braeside Police Station and eventually to Mbare.
As we were removing our shoes and belts
before entering the police cells Mutambara came in smartly dressed
in a black suit. I had last seen Mutambara as we were driving in
Highfields. He was arrested and taken to Harare Central without
being beaten up. I spent two nights with him. He had a clean shaven
head, in any case he told us he was lucky not to be beaten. We talked
about politics, family and many other issues. I found it very interesting
that when more people were brought into our cell the following day
and we asked them what was happening outside they all told us that
the whole MDC leadership had been arrested and that there was absolute
chaos around the country. They all told us that Tsvangirai, Madhuku
and Mutambara had been arrested. None of them identified Mutambara
who was sitting right next to me until they were told who he was.
We were treated fairly well at Avondale
Police Station. Mutambara was accorded much respect by the police.
They called him Professor. I don't know whether they were mocking
him. But he had access to The Herald. They gave him a pen and paper
"to communicate with his lawyers". Amai Sekai Holland was very helpful.
Her sister brought her some ointment and she shared it with me.
It really helped ease the pain on my back and buttocks.
As I write this story my lawyer Beatrice
Mutetwa is involved in battle with the police as they are refusing
to release my car and broken camera equipment. This was the worst
experience of my career since I entered the world of photo-journalism
at The Daily News in 1998.
Since I parted ways with Mutambara
on Tuesday I have constantly wondered whether the preferential treatment
he received from the police was, in any way, a strategy by the government
to create further friction between the two opposition leaders or
whether they were just protecting their man, as is often alleged.
*Mukwazhi is an award-winning photo-journalist
who works for the AP, among other news organisations. The article
was first published by the Zimbabwe Times.
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