Harare – Zimbabwe’s top human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa has written an emotional message to President Emmerson Mnangagwa following an alleged abduction, torture and sexual abuse of three female opposition activists, including MDC Alliance Member of Parliament Joanah Mamombe in Harare recently. In her emotional letter, Mtetwa also challenged the country’s security forces to discharge their duties in a way that leaves a positive legacy.
Below is a full reproduction of Beatrice Mtetwa’s letter to the President.
Mr President: Beatrice Mtetwa
Sir, I address you, not because you personally abducted, tortured and sexually abused Joanah Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova.
Neither do I address you because I know or am in other way connected with the three young women. I address you as the head of all government institutions in Zimbabwe.
I address you as the man who appointed each one of the persons who head our government institutions. In particular, you appointed the Commander of our Defence Forces, the Commissioner-General of our Zimbabwe Republic Police, the minister in charge of our State Security, the director-general of our Central Intelligence Organisation.
All four appointees are supposed to be non-partisan and to protect Zimbabweans from both external and internal attacks on their persons, property, integrity and to at all times ensure that rights granted by the Constitution are enjoyed by all.
Instead of protecting the three young women, appointees instead allowed the violation of their persons and their rights in the most despicable of ways.
I, therefore, address you, your Excellency, not only as someone who lives in Zimbabwe, but as a woman, a mother to Zimbabwean children who include a daughter who could easily have been any one of the three young women so despicably abused by agents of your appointees.
I also wish to point out the gendered nature of these violations where it is clear that these women were targeted for these violations because they are women who have chosen to participate in the country’s politics.
The attack on them is, therefore, clearly designed to dissuade young women from engaging in politics outside the ruling party.
Allow me to directly address your appointees through you, Sir. To you General Valerio Sibanda, in your capacity as head of our Defence Forces, if any one of your men and women were involved in the despicable acts perpetrated against these three young women, you are as responsible as if you held that gun that was used to simulate sexual intercourse.
If none of your members were involved, as head of the Defence Forces, which is associated with guns, you have the obligation to prove through a public and inclusive process that the members of the Defence Forces had nothing to do with these abominable acts.
And as a member of the Joint Operations Command, you have the added responsibility to ensure that none in the defence, security and police sectors do anything that puts the government of Zimbabwe into disrepute.
So, even if none of your members were directly involved in these atrocities, you still have the obligation to ensure that those responsible for the abduction, torture and other abuses these young women were subjected to are publicly brought to account for their actions.
Anything less from you will taint you with every indignity and illegality these three suffered. The goodwill that the people of Zimbabwe showed to members of the army that memorable day in November, 2017 requires that you reciprocate and reassure Zimbabweans that you still lead a people’s army.
That the country is still awaiting reprisals against members of the army who gunned down unnarmed civilians remains a sore point for Zimbabweans. It is time that you are seen to be a people’s army.
And to you, vaMatanga, our esteemed Commissioner-General of Police, you inherited an organisation which has become so discredited that it is no different from a rag-tag police force for an aspiring government in a war-torn country hoping to take over power.
Only, it was worse in that it was actually the government’s police force, which in terms of the Constitution should be a police service. So discredited it was that even his Excellency, your boss, who had not committed any crime, could not trust it and the courts to protect him.
He felt safer in the hands of the police of neighbouring countries. As a police service, you have an obligation to protect and secure the lives of those who live in Zimbabwe.
You have an obligation to maintain law and order by ensuring that abductors are hunted down like the scum that they are.
You, Commissioner-General, will remember the jubilation of November, 2017. You will recall how the police, as law enforcement agents, played second fiddle to members of the army. So discredited were the police that they were wholly identified with the fallen regime.
Is this the legacy you want to leave as commissioner-general of the second republic? Is this what the new dispensation means for your police? Sir, these three young women were taken at a roadblock manned by uniformed police and were taken to your top central police station after they were “arrested”.
They were under your roof. No Zimbabwean will believe that they were released to unknown third parties by your police without any due process requiring identification. As a former public prosecutor, I am aware, Sir, that the command structure within the police is such that none of your underlings within the police would have released the three to the abductors and torturers without the specific say so of their immediate superiors.
Furthermore, every occurrence at a police station is recorded and you owe the nation an explanation why their attendance at Central Police Station would not have been recorded in the police occurrence book. And none of their superiors would have authorised their release to third parties without first conferring with those above them.
Unless you want to tell the nation you are merely a seat warmer, the buck stops with you on how “arrested” persons were unlawfully removed from your premises by abductors and torturers. Unless you, therefore, tell the nation how this happened, you are directly responsible and complicit in everything that happened to them.
To you, State Security minister, Owen “Mudha” Ncube, your ascension to the throne was controversial. So, prove the country wrong by coming out and openly accepting any role your agents might have played in this.
If your agents were not involved, all the more reason to leave no stone unturned in unravelling who the abductors and torturers are.
You can even resort to a few fall guys who will take the can and be pardoned thereafter as has happened many times before.
At least it would look as if you care. And you need that little respect where a few people might think that you are a good guy. Intelligence services in terms of our Constitution are supposed to be non-partisan. That the abused women are members of the opposition requires that you scrupulously investigate this matter so that any suggestions or perceptions that opposition party women politicians were targeted are dispelled.
Your Excellency, this is also to your comrades who were there when the second republic came into being. I remember the abuse the leaders of the War Veterans Association were subjected to in the run-up to the removal of the old dispensation. I remember being asked by one of the comrades to help in the trumped-up charges brought against them for exercising freedoms granted to them by the Constitution.
I remember how it was clear that your comrade Victor Matemadanda, now Defence deputy minister, was targeted for elimination on a contrived night-time trip to Gokwe on the pretext of going to search his house. I remember how we resolved that we would drive in a convoy to wherever the comrade was taken regardless of the time of day. I remember how our team resolved to stay with him at the Law and Order Section all night if that was necessary and indeed I got home at 0100hrs in the morning after following the police to where he was finally lodged and ensuring his name was entered in the detention book.
Comrade Matemadanda, do you remember that night? Do you remember how we taught you and comrade Headman Moyo how to walk when manacled together with leg irons? Do you remember Dave Drury tying your one leg to that of Moyo’s leg with his tie and the two of you practising to walk while carrying your plastic of provisions? Do you, in the War Veterans Association believe that this was done so that your dispensation could abduct, torture and abuse young women exercising the same rights that the old dispensation harassed and arrested you for?
Would you be alive today if we had not kept vigil with you that night to avoid harm befalling you?
And my old friend Oppah, how would you feel if your two daughters were subjected to this treatment by any group that comes in as another new dispensation?
And yes, Comrade Monica, is this what you and Chris were ostracised for in the run-up to the coup that was not a coup? And to all you mothers in the new dispensation, is this what you are all about? Is this the legacy that you want to leave as the second republic?
Kirsty Coventry, you are the Youth minister. The abducted and tortured young women are youths who fall under your protection. Your silence in the face of the abduction and torture of youthful women is astounding, as is the silence of the Women’s Affairs minister. Is this what you want your child to think you stood for when she is old enough to read about these occurrences under your watch? And to the entire Zanu PF, especially the women’s league, is this who you are? Is this what you fought for? Is this what you want your legacy to be?
And Your Excellency, this is to your wife, the Mother of the Nation, the Angel of Mercy. Amai, tinokutendayi nemabasa enyu emufushwa. We now appeal for your visibility as our Angel of Mercy, your daughters have been abducted, tortured and abused in ways that as a mother you would not want to hear. Why have you been silent in the face of such despicable acts against your daughters?
Why have we not seen you with sadza nemufushwa, or even potatoes and vegetables to visit these children who need your intervention? Surely, you and your foundation are appalled at this egregious breach of our Constitution. Isn’t the very reason you visibly care for women and children because you care for their wellbeing? Can a tortured and abused women-folk be sustained by mufushwa alone?
The nation awaits your signal on how we should respond to one of the most despicable acts of the new dispensation.
I am sincerely yours,