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.