by MARCUS MUSHONGA
HARARE, (CAJ News) – ZIMBABWEAN state security forces have allegedly raped civilians during crackdowns sparked by recent anti-government protests.
According to Amnesty International, the human rights group, this is in addition to previously documented violations including killings of at least 12 people, torture, abductions, arbitrary arrests and detention.
But women groups refuted such claims by Amnesty International, which are widely viewed to be concerted effort to vilify Zimbabwe for own hidden agenda.
Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA) founder and activist, Jennifer Williams said her organisation was yet to verify incidents of rape in the country as initially claimed by Amnesty International.
“Rape has no place in our society and I would be first to shout about it but I prefer to see for myself the victim so I can also give practical support. So far since yesterday (Friday), we have not verified rape incidents in Bulawayo,” Williams argued.
Amnesty International claim to have documented a systematic pattern of other infringements, including restrictions on public gatherings, excessive use of force and internet shutdown by the security forces throughout the national stay-away protest.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for Southern Africa, decried the abuse against people suspected of taking part in the protests.
“Children as young as 11 years old have also been charged,” Muchena said.
Up to 700 people, including minors, have been detained after being arrested on charges that government critics argue are trumped-up.
Suspects have been brought before courts in hearings mostly not meeting fair trial standards.
Hundreds have been denied bail and are detained in hostile conditions.
Muchena said authorities must act swiftly to ensure state security forces are held accountable for the ongoing violations.
The crackdowns follow a 150 percent increase in the price of fuel to over US$3 (more than R42), effective January 12.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced the prices before embarking on an international tour.
Upon arrival after cutting his visit, he denounced the violence by security forces as unacceptable and a betrayal of the new Zimbabwe.
“Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll,” Mnangagwa assured.
– CAJ News