SCORES of activists were allegedly abducted and brutalised by suspected gun-totting State-sponsored militias before their vehicles were burnt to shells, hours before an anti-bond notes demonstration in Harare yesterday.
BY OBEY MANAYITI
One of the activists and organiser of the demonstration, Patson Dzamara, was stripped naked and trodden before being dumped along the Harare-Bulawayo Highway.
Police also picked up human rights lawyer, Advocate Fadzayi Mahere, anti-President Robert Mugabe cleric, Phillip Mugadza, and 11 others.
Their lawyer, Obey Shava, confirmed the development, saying his clients were being charged with disorderly conduct.
The 12 are expected to appear in court today.
Mugadza was arrested for carrying a Zimbabwean flag.
The demonstration was later called off as the situation in Harare got tense after police went out in full force to block the protest march.
Police mounted several roadblocks purportedly to search dangerous weapons along various roads leading into the central business district.
Hundreds of riot police were patrolling the capital city to prevent the crowds from gathering after defiant social media movements and civic groups had vowed to defy a ban on anti-government demonstrations.
The injured Dzamara was later assisted by well-wishers to contact his family, who later took him to a local private clinic, where he is currently admitted.
It is understood that the pro-democracy activists were intercepted by suspected State apparatchik’s near High Glen shopping centre in the early hours of yesterday morning, where their vehicles were burnt.
The brutalised Dzamara recounted his horror to NewsDay Weekender yesterday.
“As you are aware, we were planning for today’s demonstration (yesterday) and we had gone to pick up one of our colleagues in Mufakose. In my car, we had three people. We had another vehicle as well with three people and on our way back at the intersection of High Glen and Mukonono, two cars emerged from the front and blocked our way,” he recounted.
“After blocking us, they disembarked from their vehicles armed with guns. We tried to reverse, but another car came from behind to block the way. They started firing their guns and ordered us to disembark. That is when they started assaulting us.”
Dzamara added: “They blindfolded me and bundled me in their truck saying I was the person whom they wanted to deal with. They bundled me into their car and drove for about an hour to a certain place, which I believe is Lake Chivero because one of them commented on the water levels in the lake.
“They then phoned one of their bosses and told him they had two options. They said they had iron bars, cotton wool and a plastic container. I wondered what they wanted to use them for, but in that telephone conversation, they said they didn’t have a catalyst. They asked if the other team was able to bring the catalyst so that they would finish me off.”
Dzamara said during the torture, the militia told him he had not learnt a lesson from his missing brother, Itai’s ordeal, while threatening to “deal with me ruthlessly”.
“One of them said to me: ‘Dzamara, we are sorry for the lesson we are about to teach you. You didn’t learn anything from your brother’s unfortunate disappearance and today, you will learn your own lesson’,” he said.
From Lake Chivero, Dzamara said they drove to a bushy area, where they stripped him naked and poured a certain liquid on his body before dumping him naked.
He said he crawled to the road seeking assistance, but passersby kept a distance thinking he was a witch.
Dzamara was later taken to a service station, where he was assisted to call his family.
Lawyers from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights also visited Dzamara at the private clinic.
“Basically, they were ambushed while driving and he (Dzamara) was specifically targeted. They assaulted him very badly and dumped by the roadside in a state of nudity,” lawyer David Hofisi said.
“It was difficult for him to get transportation because he was still in pain and it is even more difficult to get transport when you don’t have clothes, but eventually, he managed to get to a service station and called his brother, who delivered him to the hospital.”
He said they were preparing papers to sue for abduction, torture and loss of motor vehicles.
“The words which were spoken to him show that he was specifically targeted because of the demonstration planned today (yesterday). This seems like a well-orchestrated plan,” Hofisi said.
#ThisFlower leader Sten Zvorwadza equated the police heavy-handedness to Gukurahundi massacres, but said they would re-strategise and set another date for the demonstration.
“We are re-strategising on the next date to hold our demonstration because today (yesterday), it was not possible to go ahead as government has started unleashing violence against our activists. This is madness by the panicking government which has no solution, but rushing to violate people’s rights,” he said.
Activist Silvanos Mudzvova said some of the activists in Dzamara’s company were still missing.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said she was in a meeting when contacted by NewsDay Weekender last night.
But when this paper arrived at the place where the vehicles were burnt, police forensic experts were attending to the scene.
Zimbabwe Peace Project condemned yesterday’s events, adding that in Kuwadzana, there was an unfortunate incident where suspected uniformed soldiers ransacked nightclubs and indiscriminately assaulted patrons and vendors.
The European Union also condemned the abduction, torture and brutalising of the organisers of the peaceful demonstration.