/ 13 March 2007

Tsvangirai assault was ‘attempted murder’

A commando unit based at the Cranborne Barracks in Harare was responsible for the brutal torture of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders on Sunday, according to a police officer who witnessed the assault. The officer said the beatings were carried out by drugged soldiers disguised as police officers.

A crack commando unit based at the army’s Cranborne Barracks in Harare was responsible for the brutal torture of Morgan Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders on Sunday, according to a police officer who witnessed the assault.

The police officer, who is based at Machipisa Police Station in Highfield suburb, said Tsvangirai and the other opposition leaders were tortured for close to two hours by drugged soldiers disguised as police officers.

In an interview with ZimOnline on Tuesday, the police officer, who cannot be named for security reasons, said: ”I have been in the police force for three years, and I have been involved in the assault of suspects.

”But what I saw on Sunday was not assault. It was attempted murder, especially on Tsvangirai, [opposition leader Lovemore] Madhuku and [MDC deputy secretary for international affairs Grace] Kwinjeh.”

Tsvangirai fainted three times during the assault.

In a harrowing account of what transpired in the prison, the police officer, speaking in hushed tones, said 12 soldiers from Cranborne Barracks were responsible for the assault.

Even police officers were unnerved by the seriousness and brutality of the assault.

”They [soldiers] were dressed in police uniform and had bloodshot eyes. They told us they were police officers, but I managed to identify them as commandos because of the green army belts they were wearing on top of the uniforms.

”Only commandos wear those. One of them announced that they had smoked a special grade of marijuana for the special mission. I witnessed the whole incident. Police officers from Machipisa were not involved. We were stunned at the ruthlessness.

”They were shouting and telling Tsvangirai that they could kill him on that night and nothing would happen to them,” said the officer.

The police officer said the beatings started at 11.45pm and lasted for more than two hours.

”Tsvangirai was the first to be attacked. They said they wanted to show the others that they meant business. Tsvangirai’s colleagues openly wept as their leader was being beaten.

”I think they were feeling for Tsvangirai as well as pondering their own fate,” he said.

Using sjamboks, army belts and gun butts, the soldiers attacked Tsvangirai until he passed out, said the police officer.

”The soldiers then shifted attention to the remaining suspects, as one of the soldiers poured cold water all over Tsvangirai to resuscitate him. They came to the women, and identified Grace Kwinjeh and Sekai Holland.

”The male soldiers began beating the two, while their female colleagues concentrated on Madhuku. The rest were watching, awaiting their turn.

”When Tsvangirai regained consciousness, one of them shouted: ‘Look their boss is ready for more action’, and they all pounced on him again until he passed out for the second time.

”Tsvangirai regained consciousness again at around 1:30am. One vicious woman was left to work on him. She removed an army belt from her waist and used it to assault Tsvangirai until he passed out again.

”I thought he was dead but she appeared unmoved. She simply moved to join her colleagues who were now indiscriminately beating the other suspects.

”Mutambara was assaulted but not as severely as Tsvangirai, Madhuku and Kwinjeh.”

One disabled MDC supporter was so severely assaulted that he begged the soldiers to finish him off.

”The guy was a sorry sight,” he said.

Pleas by the MDC leaders to stop beating the disabled man fell on deaf ears with one woman soldier retorting that it [beating] would teach him to live without challenging President Robert Mugabe’s authority.

In the early hours of Monday, Tsvangirai and his colleagues, all blindfolded, were bundled into a police truck and dropped at different police stations for detention, while an army truck pulled up and picked the soldiers, according to the police source. – ZimOnline