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December 2008

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

The torture of Jestina Mukoko

The incarcerated human rights defender tells of her horrific treatment

Jestina Mukoko, the head of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, who was kidnapped from her home last month, and was today still held illegally by the police, has described her treatment following her abduction. It is a grim story of deprivation, assault, and torture.

Jestina, 54, has told the world what happened to her in papers filed at the Harare High Court, in which she demanded that the trumped-up charges of plotting to topple President Mugabe be dropped, and that she be released as ordered by a High Court judge last week.

She said that for 19 days, following the abduction, she had no idea where she was being held. On journeys she was always blindfolded, even when the state security agents who first grabbed her handed her on to the police.

In her statement she says bluntly: "I was tortured. At first I was assaulted on the soles of my feet with a hard rubber object, while I was sitting on the floor. Later I was told to raise my feet to a table, and then everyone in the room started assaulting me.

"They took a break for a while, then started beating me again. And beatings continued every few hours. The men were always visibly drunk, many of them with bottles of liquor in their hands."

Her torturers constantly accused her of recruiting and training youths for banditry, and of working with the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) in an alleged plot to topple Mugabe.

At one point, as she continued to deny the charges, one of her assailants left the room, and returned shortly with a quantity of gravel, which he spread on the floor.

"He ordered me to pull up my clothes and kneel on the gravel. I was beaten again while on the gravel."

Jestina suffers from severe allergies and was denied medication for ten days. Then she was seen by a Doctor Chigumira, who was shocked by her condition, and afterwards medication was supplied.

At the time of writing High Court Judge Alpheus Chitakunya is set to rule on the legality of her detention, and her friends and supporters hope she will be set free today. There is also hope that the 31 other activists known to have been kidnapped recently will also gain their freedom.

Meanwhile, today is December 31. At this point I would normally wish all who visit this blog a happy new year. But to do so, to those still surviving in Zimbabwe, would be ironic in the extreme. Instead may I humbly pray that somehow we all get safely through 2009.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

We know where they are

The recent abductees have been found - but they're still in jail

To the enormous relief of their families, many of the 40-odd human rights workers and others who have disappeared recently have been located. Despite vehement government denials I can confirm that they are in police custody, and various charges against them are under consideration.

Police have continued to deny that they hold any of the missing people, but Harare-based lawyer Charles Kwaramba told me yesterday, Tuesday, that, following intensive investigations, he could confirm that at least 12 have been located in different police stations in the Harare area.

Zimbabwe Peace Project Director Jestina Mukoko, kidnapped outside her home three weeks ago, an event which made headlines across the world, was first held at Highlands police station, then moved to Matapi in Mbare, where she remains. She is believed to face a charge of recruiting people to be trained to overthrow the government.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's former personal assistant Ghandi Mudzingwa is being held at Highlands, while Concillia Chinanzvavana, the MDC women's leader from Mashonaland West, and her husband Emmanuel Chinanzvavana, a councillor in Zvimba South, are both at Marlborough police station.

These names and others are believed to be facing charges similar to that levelled against Jestina Mukoko.

We now also know exactly who carried out the abductions. The operation was controlled by Harare-based Chief Superintendent Chrispen Makedenge, who commands the Law and Order section of the police. He led a team of operatives drawn from the police, the national army, and the spy agency the Central Intelligence Organisation.

The operation was code-named "Chimumumu", which is Shona for a dump person, and was particularly well funded. The team were given new vehicles, an unlimited fuel supply, and permanent bookings in various hotels.

Makedenge's services to our corrupt regime have been rewarded with, amongs other things, a commercial farm in the rich Banket agricultural area.

And I am sure most regular Moses Moyo readers will be able to guess to which office Makedenge and his team report. Yes indeed, it is the office of the President, Robert Mugabe.

Monday, 22 December 2008

I hear wedding bells...

...and they herald a new political dynasty that could change the face of Southern Africa

Next Saturday Wesley Bongani Ncube and Gugulethu Zuma will celebrate their wedding in Zimbabwe's second city of Bulawayo, and may I be the first to raise a glass to the happy couple and wish them long life and happiness together.

I am toasting the future not only of the bride and groom, but also of what the marriage will doubtless entail - the creationof a new and powerful political dynasty that will stretch across the uneasy borders of this region.

It is in this major new alliance between neighbouring fiefdoms that that there lies the possibility that finally the big player in the game, the Republic of South Africa, will see its way clear to settling the problems of Zimbabwe once and for all.

To understand what this wedding means you must examine the gold embossed invitation card which our country's most privileged and important people - oh yes, including yours truly Moses Moyo - have received during the past few weeks.

There you will find the names of the bride's parents - Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma - and the names of the bridegroom's parents - Welshman Ncube and Ntokozo Mkandla Ncube. And in the world of Southern African politicis, such names don't come much bigger.

Father of the bride Jacob Zuma is, of course, currently President of South Africa's ruling African National Congress (ANC), and if all goes according to plan - his plan - he will be President of the Republic of South Africa after next year's elections.

The mother of the bride, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, divorced her wayward hubby back in 1998, but that hasn't stopped her own political career. Today she is the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the South Africa government.

Meanwhile the father of the bridegroom is Welshman Ncube. Welshman was the founding Secretary General of Zimbabwe's embattled Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In 2005 he led the formation of the breakaway MDC splinter group, and as such he may be more amenable to Zanu-PF's power-sharing proposals than Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC's principal leader. However, Welshman remains firmly in the anti-Mugabe camp.

What does this signify? Just this: Zuma has already indicated that he is no fan of Zimbabwe's current President. As a Zulu he has a natural affinity with the much-persecuted people of Matabeleland. This wedding will tie him even more firmly to the opposition cause.

It is an acknowledged fact that South Africa can bring about the fall of Zimbabwe's tyrannical Zanu-PF regime with one good turn of the screw. When Zuma takes power, his number one foreign relations objective must surely be to help his son-in-law's Dad in his struggle for freedom. European readers should know that family ties still count for much in Africa.

So again I raise my glass to the happy couple (both students at the University of Cape Town and both said to be very bright young people)j. I wish them a fruitful and happy relationship. And I wish exactly the same for the relationship between their respective parents.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Friendly fire!

The truth behind the Shiri shooting

Zimbabwe's Air Force commander Perence Shiri, the target of an attemped assassination on Sunday morning, was shot at by his own side. My sources reveal that Shiri was the victim of a plot hatched by the feared spy agency the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

Four hitmen armed with machine guns waylaid Shiri as he was driving back from his farm in Shamva, a mining town in Mashonaland Central. The plan was to fire first at the car, forcing it into a ditch, and then to finish off the Air Marshal at point blank range.

Three bullets hit Shiri's vehicle, one of them wounding him in the shoulder. But it is understood that he pulled out a pistol and returned fire, forcing the hitmen to flee. He later received treatment for the wound at the hospital at Manyame Air Force Base.

My source in the CIO told me that Shiri, who is a member of the Joint Operations Command, the military junta that virtually rules Zimbabwe today, was targeted because of his growing stature within the ruling Zanu-PF party.

"He has begun to rival the Zimbabwe Army Commander, Constantine Chiwenga," I was told. "Chiwenga is determined to succeed Mugabe, so it was decided that Shiri should be eliminated."

There was also a suspicion within Zanu-PF that Shiri had been in secret contact with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), with a view to achieving immunity from prosecution, in the event of the MDC taking power in the country.

Immunity is something Shiri would surely need. His name is still cursed in parts of Zimbabwe, because in the 1980s he personally masterminded the infamous Gukurahundi operation, in which 20,000 Ndebeles in the Matebeleland region were massacred.

Now of course the government will attempt to blame the assassination attempt on some mythical opposition force allied to the MDC. Most Zimbabweans will reject this explanation. We have long known that, if you join the turbulent ranks of Zanu-PF, you will find you have more enemies inside the party than out.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Three days of death and delusion

A snapshot of the blatant lies and the terrible truth in Zimbabwe today

Last Thursday President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe declared that his country's cholera epidemic, which had made sensational headlines throughout the world, was now over. The danger had been "arrested". There was now no more cholera in Zimbabwe.

Also last Thursday Pedzisai Munda, aged 47, died of cholera in her shack in Hopley, South Harare. She met her death in a sea of urine, faeces and vomit, overflowing from the temporary toilet - a one-metre deep pit just yards from her home - which had flooded in the heavy rains.

Her death came two weeks after the similar death of her neighbour, also from cholera. Attempts had been made to get the neighbour to Budiriro Hospital, 15 kilometres away, but they failed. Pedzisai had nursed her neighbour as best she could. There was no-one to nurse Pedzisai, and she died in squalid misery.

Last Friday Zimbabwe's information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu explained that the cholera epidemic - which no longer exists, see above - was being spread by British agents, who were deliberately infecting the population with the disease, and with anthrax. Their aim was, he said, to weaken the country ahead of an armed invasion. Despite the succcess of the agents' efforts, as evidenced by the chronic weakening of the country, Mr. Ndlovu had no information on when we might expect the armed invasion.

Also last Friday Taurai Siza, aged 10, died of cholera. An Aids orphan, Taurai lived on the streets of Hopley, and slept at night wrapped in an old blanket, under a piece of plastic sheeting. There was no money for a coffin, so they buried Taurai in his blanket, some 100 metres from his plastic shelter.

Last Saturday I spoke to the Zimbabwe Minister of Health, David Parirenyatwa. The minister told me: "Cholera has been managed in the area you are talking about. You and your handlers in the West can wish it to continue, but it's no longer there. Period."

Also last Saturday, in Glenview, Harare, three people, all of whom lived in a street called 13 Avenue, died of the cholera which, according to Mr. Pairenyatwa, is no longer there. Period.. 

One of the three was Tonderai Chapeyama, aged 18. Tonderai had nursed her friend Elizabeth Mutodzaniswa when Elizabeth had the disease. Elizabeth recovered. Tonderai sickened and died.

Last Friday, British home secretary Jacqui Smith warned that Zimbabweans, fleeing their country and buying false passports, might bring cholera with them to the West.

A personal thought for today, Monday:  If Mr. Mugabe's non-existent cholera does reach Britain and the rest of the world, perhaps then, at long last, Britain and the rest of the world will grow genuinely concerned about what is happening in Zimbabwe, and come to our aid. Perhaps.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Invasion? What invasion?"

You may not believe in it. But we know someone who does

The spirited response to my forecast of a possible invasion of Zimbabwe from Zambia and Botswana would seem to indicate that many observers simply don't believe it can happen, and I am grateful to DC, Martin Gower, RMacleod and Sophie Zvapera for their input. They may of course be right. But I have evidence that the supreme leader himself, R. Mugabe, is not so sure.

My sources within the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) tell me that days before my piece appeared, the agency had submitted a report to Mugabe's office specifically accusing both Zambia and Botswana of offering their lands as "launching pads" for a military attack.

The spies apparentl;y believe that such an attack would be led by Britain - an indication of paranoia amongst the ranks of the spies when you remember that the UK's troops are already fully committed in other parts of the world.

A senior member of the Zimbabwe Army Intelligence (if that's not a contradiction in terms) also told me: "The reports we are receiving indicate that Zambia and Botswana have offered to help in the invasion, and that it would be imminent,"

The same source said that Mugabe had reacted to the reports by ordering a country-wide tightening of security, and specifically calling on military chiefs to put all border forces on high alert.

I then spoke to a senior member of the Police Suport Unit who said: "Most of our border patrol officers will be receiving their rations this week, and they will join up with the national army during the coming days, to intensify an armed presence on the borders."

Meanwhile the Army has reacted to the troop riots of last week by printing and distributing extra money. A soldier told me: "We were told to write down our names in the morning, and in the afternoon we received Z$100 million at the barracks. The money was not part of our monthly salaries. We were also told that the government was sorry for overlooking our grievances, and that things will change."

Our soldiers will draw two conclusions from this:  one, that things won't change, and two, that rioting works. Watch out for further direct action from our gallant troops.

On the international front, while demands for direct action, if only to combat the ever-growing cholera epidemic, continue, the African Union has predictably dismissed any military move, and repeated the mantra that the only way forward is through negotiations. Perhaps the Union really believes that is true. Perhaps.

Meanwhile, to those who do not believe in a military solution from outside our borders, can I put this question:  Two years ago, would you have believed that the world would allow our beloved country to descend to its present tragic, brutal and disastrous state without interfering?

Sunday, 07 December 2008

Invasion alert!

Armed intervention is now on the cards - here's why

Zambia, one of Zimbabwe's neighbouring countries, stations its crack 2nd battalion troops at the Tug Argan barracks in the Copperbelt city of Ndola. Zambia's Commandos are at the nearby Mushili depot. Recently both units have been training, in joint operations with the army of Botswana, another of our neighbouring states. The prospect - nothing less than the armed invasion of Zimbabwe.

This scenario has grown more and and more likely over the past few days, as the tone of international condemnation of Robert Mugabe becomes strident, and the possibility of armed intervention in Zimbabwe is at last given serious consideration.

Those famous voices who previously called for negotiations are now calling for action. Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, even ponderous British Prime Minister Gordon Brown - all have declared that enough is enough.

These tough-talking leaders have clearly and jointly reached the conclusion that Zimbabwe is collapsing and its people suffering unforgivably - something that commentators such as your own Moses Moyo have been telling them for months, even years.

It's the appalling cholera epidemic, first highlighted on this site, that has brought them to this conclusion. It has taken the pitiful and highly preventable deaths of thousands of innocent Zimbabweans to remove the scales from their eyes.

Underlying the many tough statements this last weekend was the unmistakable implication that if Mugabe can't be persuaded to step down - and he can't - then the next step is armed intervention. But not by troops from America, or Britain, or anywhere in Europe.

The unspoken rule is that such military action cannot, for all the usual historical and political reasons, be taken by White troops, from White countries. The soldiers who cross the border into Zimbabwe must be African. And as South Africa, under its wishy-washy leadership, cannot be relied upon, we expect it will be our brothers from Botswana and Zambia who will be asked to lead the way.

My source in Zambia told me: "Our forces are fully equipped, especially with Ak47's and Katyusha rocket launchers and tanks. The plan is for Botswana troops and Zambian units to invade simultaneously from their own borders, catching Mugabe's men in a pincer movement."

He told me that there would certainly be public enthusiasm in both Zambia and Botswana for an enforced end to the Zimbabwean dictatorship. For months economic and political refugees have crowded across the borders of both countries. Now they still come - and they bring cholera with them.

Zambia observers also believe that the fight, if it came to one, would not be a long one. Zimbabwe's troops, as also revealed exclusively on these pages, are already rioting, and staging pitched battles with police in the Harare streets. They are thought to have no stomach for a battle to save Mugabe.

Meanwhile the international calls for action have also included a suggestion that Mugabe be brought to trial at the international court at the Hague. But, I must point out, that won't happen if we get our hands on him first. We have a swifter justice to exact.

Thursday, 04 December 2008

The murder of Mary Austen

How the elderly wife of one of Zimbabwe's last White farmers met her death

Mary Austen, a 74-year-old British-born woman, has been found dead on the farm which she and her husband ran near the Midlands town of Kwekwe. Her body was discovered in the couple's garden, and a doctor who performed a post mortem reported that she died from multiple head injuries.

Her husband was found in the couple's house. He too had been attacked with ferocity, but he was still alive, and is now under medical care at a private facility in Harare.

He has told his doctors that their home was attacked by ten men last week. He knew none of them by sight, but assumed that they were so-called Freedom Fighters. He said they came at night and ordered both husband and wife into the garden.

My source within the government spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), told me that the couple tried to reason with the men but were ignored. "They began attacking them with pick handles and sticks, and both collapsed to the ground. Mrs. Austen died on the spot, and Mr. Austen was left for dead," the source said.

One of those who found the couple told me: "It was a gruesome sight. Mrs. Austen was lying face down, her clothes were torn, and she was covered in clotted blood."

There seems to be no clear motive for the attack. Local villagers described the Austens as "a very understanding and kind hearted couple", who apparently grew large amounts of vegetables which they gave, along with other help, to those in need.

Mrs. Austen's death was not the only tbrutal murder in the country this week. In the rural Mashonaland district of Murehwa, villagers have discovered the mutilated and decomposing body of an opposition MDC councillor, Alloys Chandisarewa Sanyangore.

Mr. Sanyangore was abdudcted from his home at midnight early in November. It is understood that he had been strangled. He leaves a wife and six children.

Fears also continue to grow for the abducted human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, who, as I previously reported, was taken from her home barefoot and wearing only pyjamas.

This is life, and death, in Zimbabwe today.

Wednesday, 03 December 2008

Death to the mutineers!

How the government plans to deal with the rioting soldiers

Following my report on the Zimbabwe army's rioting soldiers, who have been running amok in the streets of Harare, government sources are indicating that those dissident troops who can be identified will be punished by summary execution. 

Since last Thursday mobs of soldiers, frustrated by lack of pay and food, have been terrorizing local citizens, targeting foreign currency dealers, and looting shops and market stalls. Their activities climaxed on Monday with a pitched battle against riot police.

Today a government source close to the Joint Operations Command, the junta that to all intents and purposes runs Zimbabwe today, told me that when President Robert Mugabe returns from his current visit to Doha, he will be recommended to impose the death penalty on the soldiers involved.

"There is a general fear in government of another Somalia here in Zimbabwe," said the source. "A stern message to all soldiers is considered necessary, and that means execution."

Earlier defence minister Sydney Sekeramyi had hinted as much, when he described the rioting troops as "rogue elements", and described their actions as "unacceptable, deplorable, reprehensible and criminal."

Meanwhile concern is growing for the safety of Jestina Mukoko, a well-known and popular human rights worker, who was abducted from her Norton, Harare, home some days ago by 15 men , believed to be members of the feared spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).

Jestina rose to fame as a newsreader on the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), but had moved on to work with the Zimbabwe Police Project. A statement by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said she can still not be found, All that is known is that one of the vehicles involved in the abduction was a grey Mazda 325 Familia.

ZLHR has been consistently documenting cases of politically motivated violence in the country for the past year, and has evidence that many more human rights activists have been either abducted or arrested in the past few weeks. They include a local councillor in the Banket area north west of Harare, and his wife, a provincial women's leader. So far neither husband nor wife can be found.

On the streets this week doctors and nurses marched to the Ministry of Health to protest against the almost total collapse of the public heath service, and were brutally dispersed by police. Another march by labour union members, organized by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), was broken up before it reached the Central Bank.

So the demonstrations, official and violent supressions, the abduction of human rights workers, beatings, and murders - all grow grow more numerous by the day. If our government now begins to execute protesting members of its own military establishment, can total anarchy be far away?

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