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  • Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign

  • My wife, Sekai Holland, battered by Mugabe's thugs
    Jim Holland
    March 21, 2007

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    My wife, Sekai Holland, is a 64-year old grandmother. For the crime of being a member of the opposition MDC in Zimbabwe she has suffered one of the most brutal attacks imaginable at the hands of the ZANU-PF regime's sadistic thugs.

    Sekai's ordeal began when she and fellow activist Grace Kwinjeh went to Harare's Highfield Police Station looking for those who had been arrested for trying to attend a Zimbabwe prayer vigil last Sunday. When they arrived they were told the others were in the yard at the back, and they were then taken to the yard and locked in with those already detained. Then the beatings started. Initially there was a mass beating of everyone there - over a hundred people who were forced to lie on the ground while they were viciously attacked. Later Sekai and the other members of the MDC leadership were called in one by one to the charge office where they were made to repeatedly run a gauntlet of thugs who beat them mercilessly.

    Sekai was first hit in the face, her glasses being smashed to start with. Her earrings and watch were ripped off. Then she was hit with a variety of weapons, including clubs and batons. They kept accusing her of being United Kingdom PM Tony Blair's girlfriend - to which she responded "No - he is my son - how can you call me his girlfriend?" That naturally didn't go down well. The beatings went on and on over a period of hours. A woman repeatedly jumped on her with booted feet - fracturing or breaking three of her ribs. Her clothes were covered in blood - both her own and that of others suffering the same brutality. She passed out several times.

    At one stage one of the torturers left the room and was then called back by another who said "What about her legs?" He then used some instrument to break her leg, after which they forced her to stand up and hobble around on it. When satisfied that they had indeed broken it they left. The team of torturers was apparently trying to break her spirit by inflicting the maximum amount of pain.

    From Highfield, Sekai was taken first to Central Police Station and then to the suburban Avondale station. At Avondale when she was ordered to get out of the high prison truck she replied that she was unable to do so due to her injuries, so they pushed her out and she fell and landed hard on her head, adding to the injuries she already had.

    Sekai spent two full days in detention without medical treatment. She suffered filthy conditions without proper sanitation, and with numerous injuries. When the courts finally forced the police to take the injured for medical treatment, it was first thought that she had a broken arm and foot, as well as the massive bruising over most of her body. Later on they discovered that she in fact had a broken leg not foot, and that she also had three broken or fractured ribs as well as a fractured knee.

    I managed to get back to Harare from Tanzania on the evening of the day Sekai was admitted to hospital. The place was still crawling with riot police, and the atmosphere was very tense. However a local human rights organisation (Amani Trust) had managed to negotiate proper treatment for all the injured and Sekai was put into very good medical hands.

    A doctor friend of ours from Australia paid her a visit before I arrived. However he was arrested and interrogated by the police for many hours before being released without charge. Apparently they thought he was a journalist.

    Sekai was in excellent spirits when I finally saw her, in spite of being so sadistically brutalised. She said that neither she nor any of the other leaders she saw being battered uttered any cries - and that must have infuriated the torturers. In the end the sadists were the ones who failed. In frustration they apparently made the bizarre boast that they were being paid a million dollars (admittedly only USD100 or so now) by (Reserve Bank Governor) Gono to carry out the beatings, plus an extra $100,000 a day for their meal allowances. That gives you an indication of the mentality of those hired by the regime.

    Since her admission to hospital Sekai has had surgery to insert pins in her broken leg and arm. That operation went well, but she will need specialist treatment outside the country for the fractured knee.

    I think that the regime has massively miscalculated with this brutality. Messages of solidarity have been coming in from all over the world, and I can see this leading to real pressure on the neighbouring African countries who have shielded Mugabe and his regime for so long.

    The most moving development of all for us has been to hear of the support coming from so many members of the Australian Aboriginal community with whom Sekai campaigned over the elimination of Apartheid and other colonial systems in Africa, and in support of Aboriginal Land Rights back in the

    1970s. They say they are not going to let this pass without action that may surprise everyone.

    Update 17 March 2007

    It was agreed that it was essential to evacuate Sekai and fellow MDC activist Grace Kwinjeh from hospital in Harare to South Africa, where the atmosphere was calmer and safer and where medical facilities were better than in Zimbabwe. Arrangements were therefore made for them to be taken by air ambulance from Harare airport to Johannesburg. However when their ambulance drew up next to the aircraft on the tarmac they were met by members of the CIO (Central Intelligence Agency) who refused to allow them on board. Discussions with our lawyer followed, but he was told that the injured women required a clearance letter from the Minister of Health before they could leave the country. That of course was a total fabrication as there is no such provision in the law or indeed in practice. The ambulance was ordered to proceed under police escort to the Central Police Station.

    At Central, the lawyer was advised that the women were not allowed to leave the country but should return to hospital under police escort. No justification or explanation was given. They were taken back to hospital and placed under the guard of four uniformed police officers - two fully armed men and two women. No explanation was forthcoming for another hour or so, at which time they were informed that they were under arrest as they were to be charged with some unspecified offence to be determined in due course by the CID (Criminal Investigation Division of the police).

    It should be noted that on the day of their appearance before the court last Tuesday the magistrate ordered that everyone should be released from custody and that no further arrests should be made, and that if the police wanted to proceed against any of those arrested at a later stage it should be by way of summons and not arrest. The treatment they received today is in direct violation of that court order.

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