The United States embassy provided an insight into Jestina Mukoko and her Zimbabwe Peace Project when it nominated her for the Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage.
It said Mukoko had served as the executive director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, a non-governmental organisation made up of approximately 400 brave Zimbabweans who monitored human rights abuses throughout Zimbabwe, since 2007.
ZPP’s reports had helped provide the international community with accurate assessments of human rights abuses, including violence against women and politically-slanted distribution of food, in communities across Zimbabwe, particularly during the violent 2008 election period.
Viewing cable 09HARARE923,
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0923/01 3310956
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 270956Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5160
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000923
E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJ: NOMINATION FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE’S AWARD FOR
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE
REF: STATE 111471
¶1. (U) The following is Embassy Harare’s nomination for the
Secretary of State’s Award for International Women of Courage.
NAME: Jestina Mungarewa Mukoko
TITLE: National Director
INSTITUTION: Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
Contact: 17425 Flanagan Crescent, Hillside, Harare, Zimbabwe
EMAIL: [email protected]
PASSPORT NUMBER: BN206684
¶2. Since 2007, Ms. Mukoko has served as the Executive Director of
the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), an NGO made up of approximately
400 brave Zimbabweans who monitor human rights abuses throughout
Zimbabwe. ZPP’s reports have helped provide the international
community with accurate assessments of human rights abuses,
including violence against women and politically-slanted
distribution of food, in communities across Zimbabwe, particularly
during the violent 2008 election period. Even before joining ZPP,
Ms. Mukoko was a well-known leader in the human rights and activist
communities in Zimbabwe through her work with other NGOs after a
successful career as a journalist. Ms. Mukoko first made a name for
herself as a broadcaster for Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation where
she delivered the news to Zimbabweans in English, Shona, and
Ndebele. She was a pioneering role model for professional women in
journalism, which had traditionally been dominated by men. Her many
years as a radio and television journalist introduced her as a
friendly and familiar face to Zimbabweans in every corner of the
country. After leaving television and radio, Ms. Mukoko moved to
civil society where she has used her journalism and publicity skills
to further promote civic education and human rights.
¶3. After years of documenting and speaking out on human rights, Ms.
Mukoko herself became a victim of a state-sponsored attack last
year. An active figure in Zimbabwe’s civil society, she was
abducted by state security agents from her home on December 3, just
hours after giving a speech to a civil society group calling on
Zimbabweans to take action during the 16 Days of Activism Against
Gender Violence. During her abduction, she was tortured by agents
who beat her, subjected her to falanga (beating on the soles of the
feet), and forced her to confess to an alleged plot to mount a
terrorist incursion from neighboring Botswana. Ms. Mukoko appeared
in a Zimbabwean police station suddenly on December 23, and was
subsequently held at the notorious Chikurubi Maximum Security prison
until a court finally granted her bail on February 27.
¶4. Throughout her incarceration at Chikurubi, and despite several
court orders calling on officials to allow her to be treated at a
private medical facility, she was repeatedly denied adequate medical
care for injuries and medical conditions that went untreated during
her detention. After she appealed through the courts, the
Zimbabwean Supreme Court finally ruled on September 28 that state
security forces had violated her human rights to such an extent as
to warrant a permanent stay of prosecution in the case against her.
Although she has secured this significant legal victory, Ms. Mukoko
is continuing her fight against the security agents who abducted and
tortured her by suing them in Zimbabwe’s courts for over US$1
million. Regime violence and intimidation has often silenced its
opponents. Ms. Mukoko’s ongoing legal case is an important
statement against violence and oppression. Her bravery in calling
those responsible for her abduction and torture to account, as well
as her continuing role as head of ZPP has only reinforced her
position as a leading human rights defender in one of the most
oppressive countries in the world.
¶5. In the election-related violence that blanketed Zimbabwe in
mid-2008, women often suffered particularly harsh abuse at the hands
of security agents and ZANU-PF youths. Ms. Mukoko’s abduction and
subsequent court case brought the subject of politically-motivated
violence — particularly violence against women — and human rights
abuses home to all Zimbabweans. Across the country, people in
villages discussed “what happened to Jestina” and debated on whether
the government, even if it had a legitimate case against her, was
justified in abducting her in such a violent fashion.
¶6. Despite the horrors she has endured, Ms. Mukoko continues to
serve as ZPP’s Executive Director and as a role model for
Zimbabweans. Zimbabwean security forces returned her passport to
her on September 30, and she has already traveled overseas to
continue her work crusading for human rights in Zimbabwe. Although
Ms. Mukoko has always been an easily recognized figure since her
days as a TV newswoman, her abduction has further raised her profile
and the sensitive issue of women as victims of political violence.
Her actions and story already inspire women, young and old, in
Zimbabwe to courageously pick up the pieces of their shattered
lives, to fight human rights abusers in the courts, and to speak the
truth — however painful it might be. Since winning her case in the
Supreme Court, Ms. Mukoko has spoken openly of the counseling she
and her family have received and how it has helped them. Already,
other victims are coming forward to request counseling as they seek
to follow Ms. Mukoko’s example.
¶7. Before her abduction, Ms. Mukoko was already widely respected as
a courageous woman thanks to her important work at ZPP in
documenting human rights abuses. Ms. Mukoko’s tragic ordeal and her
brave response give even greater strength to her nomination.
Conferring her with the International Woman of Courage Award would
further encourage other Zimbabwean women who bear the scars of
political violence and fighting the male-dominated professional
establishment to follow her lead in defending human rights in word
and deed. It would also encourage survivors of violence and
repression to seek the important emotional support that can help
them move forward.
¶8. Ms. Mukoko was informed of Post’s submission of this nomination.
¶9. Embassy Officers working on women’s issues:
NAME: Ms. Amanda Porter (POL Section), U.S. Embassy Harare, TEL:
NAME: Ms. Priscillah Kapungu, (Public Affairs Section) U.S. Embassy
Harare, TEL: 263-4-758800/1