Another Zim dissident arrested, tortured, lawyers say

Police have arrested and tortured another dissident critic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime as the government escalated a clampdown against a perceived plot to stage mass demonstrations against the leader, lawyers said late on Monday.

Job Sikhala, the leader of a small offshoot of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), was arrested on Friday in connection with an alleged plan to stage demonstrations like those in Egypt in a bid to overthrow the 87-year-old Mugabe, a statement from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said.

Sikhala had a dislocated pelvis following assault by police interrogators and had been denied medical treatment, the group said. He was allegedly being held in filthy and degrading conditions in a police station on Harare’s outskirts.

Observers say Mugabe and the small coterie of supporters around him have ordered a countrywide operation to squash any signs of unrest they fear could spread from the turbulence in North Africa.

The lawyers group said the charges against Sikhala had been changed from fraud to kidnapping and mobilising people for revolt, and his case was being prosecuted by a police unit that had nothing to do with ordinary criminal prosecutions.


Lawyers filed an urgent application on Monday for his release, saying there was no basis for his arrest and he was unlawfully detained.

Defied court orders
Earlier on Monday, the organisation said police had defied court orders to provide medical help to 12 activists accused of planning an uprising against Mugabe.

The dozen accused were part of a larger group of around 45 lawyers, students and trade unionists who were raided by police on February 19 during a private meeting on the situation in Egypt.

They all now stand accused of treason, which carries the death penalty. They have been in custody for 10 days, and complained of various abuses and torture. Western envoys in the country have denounced the charges as manifestly excessive.

A Harare magistrate was told last week that the 12 were lashed on the soles of their feet with broomsticks by secret police interrogators attempting to force them to admit they were plotting Mugabe’s overthrow by mass demonstrations.

He halted the hearing and ordered that they be examined and treated, and for a report to be submitted when the court reconvened on Monday.

However, the men have not been treated, beyond being given general painkillers, their lawyer Rose Hanzi said.

Lawyers are also pressing for the release of Douglas Mwonzora from two weeks in custody, a lawyer and MDC Member of Parliament who is also the co-chairperson of the national committee to draft a new constitution. He and 23 others were arrested in eastern Zimbabwe where they were holding a rally. Mwonzora had not been tortured, the group said.

Mugabe has been in power for 31 years, presiding over a country which descended into economic chaos and hyper-inflation, and widespread intimidation, brutality and killings after the presidential election of 2008. — Sapa-dpa

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Sitting targets and lame ducks

Everybody’s staying pozi, which is making all the arrests easy for the Hawks. Only Ace is desperate to be seen

Access to counsel crucial for those facing capital punishment

The deadly institution of the death penalty should be abolished. It undermines humanity and in places where adequate legal representation is inaccessible it is often unjustly applied

Citizens tired of being played for a fool

The use of a South African Air Force jet by ANC officials without the minister following the required procedures is one such case — and more questions arise on examination of that case

This beef smells like manure

What’s that animal sound? Is it a Hawk swooping? A chicken roosting? No, it’s Zuma remembering a beef

Editorial: Arrests expose the rot in the ANC

The ANC has used its power to create networks of patronage. And this means going after corruption will cost the party financially

Councillors barred as ANC moves against corruption

'Stand aside' rule implemented for people facing charges as provincial integrity commission process stalls
Advertising

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Q&A Sessions: ‘My north star is the patient’

Rhulani Nhlaniki is Pfizer’s cluster lead for sub-Saharan Africa. As Pfizer starts phase III of the clinical trial of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, he tells Malaikah Bophela that if it is successful, the company will ensure the vaccine will be available to everyone who needs it

Ghost fishing gear an ‘immortal menace’ in oceans

Lost and illegal tackle is threatening marine life and the lives of people making a living from the sea

In terms of future-telling failures, this is a Major One

Bushiri knows how to pull a crowd. Ace knows a ponzi scheme. Paddy Harper predicts that a new prophet may profit at Luthuli House

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday