The Movement for Democratic Change complained that several of its members, including Job Sikhala, who had been detained by police and suspected CIO agents, had been forced to drink unspecified liquids resulting in severe sickness in three cases, and death in two cases.
Former MDC spokesman and Kuwadzana MP Learnmore Jongwe died of chloroquine poisoning while on remand in prison.
Viewing cable 03HARARE159, INCREASING GOVERNMENT BRUTALIZATION AND TORTURE OF
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000159
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/01/2013
SUBJECT: INCREASING GOVERNMENT BRUTALIZATION AND TORTURE OF
REF: A. HARARE 77
¶B. HARARE 151
Classified By: Political Officer Audu Besmer for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) The Government of Zimbabwe has intensified its
brutalization of political opponents and is increasing its
reliance on torture as a means of intimidation. On January
16 a court-ordered medical exam revealed that an MDC MP and
four other MDC members had been tortured while in police
custody earlier that week. In response, the prosecutor
declined to pursue the case against the MDC members, but he
was threatened by the CIO, and has quietly inquired about
fleeing to the UK. This comes amidst a number of other cases
of beatings and unlawful arrest of high-profile opposition
figures in the first 3 weeks of the New Year. Ahead of
by-elections in Kuwadzana, and the Cricket World Cup, and in
the midst of crippling food and fuel shortages, the GOZ
appears determined to demonstrate that it remains firmly in
control. End Summary.
MDC MP Tortured
¶2. (C) On January 14 riot police arrested Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) MP Job Sikhala, Gabriel Shumba, a
human rights lawyer in the Public Interest Unit of the Legal
Resources Foundation (LRF) (a local legal rights NGO), and
three other MDC members at Nyamutamba Hotel in Chitungwiza.
Suspected CIO agents held and tortured them for three days.
Charles Mutama, an MDC member who was tortured alongside
Sikhala, recounted to Poloff being taken alone on the evening
of January 15 blindfolded from Harare Central Police Station
to an undisclosed location about 45 minutes away by car. He
was taken inside a 20 by 30 foot room where 8 persons
interrogated him regarding MDC planned demonstrations, beat
him with planks, strangled him with wire, attached electrodes
to his fingers, toes, tongue and genitals and subjected him
to electric shocks lasting about 20 seconds. The
interrogation lasted about 6 hours.
¶3. (C) One interrogator, who was visibly drunk, urinated on
him before forcing him to lie naked in a puddle of urine with
a metal bucket over his head as shocks were administered.
Mutama said he screamed uncontrollably during the shocks, his
voice changing pitch as the voltage increased. He said he
heard Sikhala’s voice and screams in a neighboring room.
When the five reconvened two days later each realized he had
been subjected to similar torture. Poloff observed burn
marks on Mutama’s left 4th finger from the electrode which
was wrapped around it, and cuts around his neck from the
Torture Medically Confirmed
¶4. (C) Sikhala wept as he recounted his ordeal in a
magistrate’s court on January 15. By the magistrate’s order
the five were examined by a medical doctor, who certified
they had been tortured. The five were nevertheless charged
under the draconian Public Order and Security Act (POSA) with
planning to overthrow the government, and released on bail of
US$20.00 (Z$30,000) each. Though the five must report to
police weekly, the prosecution reportedly does not intend to
pursue the case because of the confirmed torture, and for
lack of evidence.
Public Prosecutor Seeks Asylum
¶5. (C) On January 20 the lead prosecutor in the Office of
Public Prosecutions in the Ministry of Justice, Thabani
Mpofu, who prosecuted Job Sikhala recently, and several
prominent cases against MDC members in the past year,
approached the British High Commission in Harare seeking
asylum. According to a British diplomat Mpofu has been
informed by friends connected to the CIO several times in the
past year that parties within CIO would like him eliminated
for his lack of vigor in prosecuting MDC members. His
friends had, up until January 20, advised him that they could
handle the agitated parties. On that date, just after MDC MP
Job Sikhala was released, his friends informed him they could
no longer hold off the parties interested in his elimination.
They advised him against going to work or home–he has
complied. The British suggested he might consider going to
South Africa and are making inquiries toward that end.
A Poisoning Pattern
¶6. (U) In a public statement, the MDC on January 17
complained that several of its members, including Job
Sikhala, who have been detained by police and suspected CIO
agents in the past several months have been forced to drink
unspecified liquids resulting in severe sickness in three
cases, and death in two cases. The MDC also noted that
former MDC MP for Kuwadzana, Harare, Learnmore Jongwe, died
of chloroquine poisoning while in police custody.
Community Leaders Beaten
¶7. (U) On January 14 ZANU-PF youth militia members detained
four officials of the Combined Harare Residents Association
(CHRA)–a USAID grantee–as they were meeting with Harare
residents. The four were taken to a nearby room and beaten
severely with bricks and police style batons for two hours by
suspected CIO members.
¶8. (U) On January 15 MDC activist Farai Makiwa was abducted
from Kuwadzana by ZANU- PF militia and beaten at an office at
the Kuwadzana 5 shopping center.
MDC Officials Arrested
¶9. (U) As reported in Ref A, MDC Executive Mayor of Harare
Elias Mudzuri was arrested on January 11 and held for 48
hours along with 20 other councilors and council officials
for hosting a public meeting with constituents in Harare.
Though released, Deputy Mayor Sekesai Makwavara, who suffers
from high blood pressure, is still recovering from the ordeal
¶10. (U) On January 12, MDC MP Paul Madzore was arrested for
allegedly assaulting two police officers and was beaten while
in custody. On January 20, Paul Madzore’s wife, MDC MP and
Shadow Minister of Labor, Pauline Mpariwa, was arrested at
her home in Marimba Park in Harare, held at Harare Central
Prison for reasons that are still unclear, and released
without charge 48 hours later.
¶11. (U) On January 2 MDC MP, Abednico Bhebhe, was arrested in
Bulawayo for putting up posters that read ‘Hoot, enough is
enough’. Prosecutors originally sought a conviction under
the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), claiming the
activity could have endangered public safety by inciting
violence. But they eventually dropped the case, reportedly
for lack of evidence.
¶12. (U) From January 19 – 21 seven MDC Mashonaland East
Provincial officials were arrested at their homes. Among
them are Jane Chifamba, Provincial Chair for Mashonaland East
Women’s Assembly, Sam Kamudarira, the Provincial Youth Chair,
and Leon Sunday, a member of the province’s executive
committee. No charges have been filed against any of the
seven, who were still being held at Marondera Police Station
Criminal Investigations Department on January 21.
MDC MP Flees
¶13. (U) On January 20 the independent Daily News reported
that MDC MP Tafadzwa Musekiwa fled to the UK saying he had
specific information that he was on a government hit list
together with Job Sikhala. Though he has been in the UK for
about two months, he reportedly intends to return to Zimbabwe
soon to prevent the GOZ from calling a by-election for his
constituency, Zengeza in Harare. Musekiwa and Sikhala have
been arrested several times since winning office in 2000.
NGOs Condemn Violence
¶14. (U) In public statements on January 20 – 23 the Legal
Resources Foundation (LRF), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human
Rights, the Human Rights NGO Forum, and the Zimbabwe Election
Support Network (ZESN) separately condemned the recent
arrests and tortures and criticized police, particularly the
Law and Order Section, for their involvement. In separate
statements, the organizations called on various parties
including the Ministers of Justice and Home Affairs, the
Attorney General, the Police Commissioner, the African
Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and Interpol to
prosecute the perpetrators, and restore public trust in the
rule of law and the criminal justice system in Zimbabwe.
¶15. (U) Commentators and MDC officials have suggested that
these recent arrests and tortures are part of a GOZ attempt
to quash government critics and any potential anti-Mugabe
mass demonstrations in the run-up to the Cricket World Cup in
Harare in February.
¶16. (C) During the past three years, the Government has
confined its tactics of physical intimidation / harm
primarily to little-known figures who have no way of
defending themselves or of publicizing their victimization.
The GOZ’s stepped-up use of torture against higher-profile
figures is a new and troubling development which suggests an
increasing concern about domestic pressure, and dwindling
concern about international opinion.
¶17. (C) The GOZ is likely stepping up its campaign of violent
intimidation now in response to a confluence of
circumstances: the approaching Kuwadzana by-election (Ref B),
the approaching Cricket World Cup, and ordinary peoples’
increasing frustration with food and fuel shortages. The GOZ
appears determined to demonstrate that even in the face of
crippling economic and social hardships, it remains firmly in
control. ZANU-PF is also demonstrating the intent to
maintain its policy of “crushing the MDC” through every means
available. End Comment.