By Pauline Hurungudo
As the crackdown on anti-government protests escalates, human rights activists have reported the emergence of torture camps in the country following the clampdown on protesters, opposition leaders and other human rights activists, the Daily News can report.
Human rights activists have consensually reported a record 844 human rights violations since January 14, 2018, including 12 deaths, 78 gunshot injuries, 242 incidents of assault, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment including dog bites; 46 of vandalism and looting; and 466 arbitrary detentions.
This follows reports that Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) deployed heavily to contain the protesters, conducting door to door raids and brutally assaulting civilians in their homes while others have been detained for hours without anyone knowing their whereabouts.
In an updated report released on Monday evening, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said although Monday was seemingly calm, activity of State violence against civil society, labour, opposition leaders and residents continued.
“The Forum has received credible reports of Zanu PF torture bases emerging across the country. In Mutoko, Zanu PF militia noted that they were establishing the infrastructure of violence in order to deal with ‘people sabotaging ED’ and to prepare for future protests,” ZHR NGO Forum said.
This is not the first time Zanu PF and security forces have been accused of establishing torture camps were civilians who are accused of defying government authority are mutilated.
Academic and researcher Pedzisai Ruhanya said: “The report is not surprising because after the fall of (Robert) Mugabe there were no efforts by (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s administration to destroy the infrastructure of violence.
“So when the power of Zanu PF was threatened they simply reactivated the structure of violence, which includes vigilante groups such as Chipangano and Top 6 in Mashonaland Province,” he said.
Last year, the High Court ordered the State to pay $150 000 to rights activist Jestina Mukoko as compensation for her abduction and torture which she suffered at the hands of State security agents in 2008.
Anti-government campaigners like Itai Dzamara are also among those who disappeared after being allegedly abducted by State apparatus.
ZHR NGO Forum added that the atmosphere in communities around Harare has remained tense as people live in fear of the unknown amid government’s clampdown.
“This can be attributed to the visibility of armed soldiers and police in some areas. In Ruwa, masked ZNA officers were seen loitering in the streets. In Highfield and Kuwadzana, water cannons and military armoured vehicles were also strategically positioned in streets near crowded places such as shopping centres.
“While many opposition leaders and other residents are said to have fled their homes, well-wishers have allegedly built safe houses across the country for people who are running away from torture and security forces harassment and brutality.
“In Domboshawa, men have abandoned their families to seek refuge from the heavy handedness of armed forces. Those left behind by fleeing suspected protesters have also been victimised to coerce them to reveal the whereabouts of the suspected protestors’’. DailyNews