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Strikes and Protests 2007- Save Zimbabwe Campaign
wife, Sekai Holland, battered by Mugabe's thugs
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
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.
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
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
Update 17 March
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
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
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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