/ 1 January 2002

Mark Chavunduka dies in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean journalist and publisher Mark Chavunduka, whose arrest and subsequent torture helped expose his government’s increasing repression of dissent, has died after a prolonged illness, his family said on Wednesday. He was 37.

The cause of his death was not announced, but was believed to be unrelated to the effects of his week long detention and torture in 1999.

Dexter Chavunduka, his father, said his son complained of pains in his side before his death at a Harare clinic late on Monday.

”It was a long standing health problem and something he used to complain of now and again,” he said.

But Chavunduka had also often complained to friends and colleagues of recurring nightmares of the beatings and electric shocks he received at a military intelligence facility outside Harare.

Chavunduka and a colleague, Ray Choto, were detained after reporting in the independent Zimbabwe Standard newspaper on disaffection in the military and a possible coup plot against President Robert Mugabe’s government.

The government denied the report and ignored court orders to either free Chavunduka or press charges against him.

After the men were released, authorities refused to prosecute torturers Chavunduka identified. Both men later received lengthy treatment for post traumatic stress in Britain and the United States.

In a tribute on Wednesday, Trevor Ncube, publisher of the Zimbabwe Standard and Mail&Guardian , described Chavunduka as ”a young man with a passion for journalism” who stood up for press freedom under Mugabe’s increasingly repressive government.

”He will be remembered for standing up to this regime,” he said. His torture brought the world’s attention to the government’s human rights violations and its efforts to suppress criticism.

Charges against Chavunduka and Choto for allegedly publishing a false report liable to create alarm and despondency were later dropped.

Chavunduka received several international awards for courageous reporting. In April, he took over a controlling share in an independent magazine publishing business.

He is survived by his wife and three children. Burial arrangements were not announced. – Sapa-AP