Four MDC Alliance activists in Bulawayo have told harrowing tales of torture at the hands of suspected state security agents following their alleged abductions on suspicion that they were involved in the organisation of the July 31 protests against corruption.
Security forces ruthlessly put down the protests that were organised by Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume, who is now languishing at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison. He was arrested on the eve of the protests on charges of plotting to overthrow President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
A number of people were allegedly abducted throughout the country prior to July 31, while others were seized from their homes or went underground days after the set day of the protests, raising alarm across the globe.
Mnangagwa’s under fire government has been denying accusations by senior officials from South Africa’s ruling ANC and the African Union that there are gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe.
But the MDC Alliance says it has gathered testimonies from its members, who were allegedly tortured by suspected state security agents that accused them of being behind the July 31 protests.
Swithren Chirowodza, the party’s spokesperson in Bulawayo, said Takunda Madzana (MDC Alliance youth secretary for cadreship development), Otillia Sibanda (a former party official), Nyasha Masundire (a youth chairman) and Michael Mubasa (a senior MDC Alliance official) had blood cuddling stories to tell about their experiences after they were allegedly abducted.
“On July 26, 2020, between 11pm and 12 midnight, Madzana was abducted from his Magwegwe home by suspected state security agents and later dumped after horrendous torture, which among other diabolic acts included being immersed in and out of a pool of water. They also applied electric shocks on his feet,” Chirowodza claimed.
“The suspected state security agents also took US$50 from Madzana’s house.
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“Sibanda was abducted from her house in Bulawayo’s Sizinda Township between 7 and 8am on July 29, 2020.
“Assailants drove a Toyota Platz and a Honda Fit. She was tortured and later dumped along Plumtree Road near Mbokodo butchery.”
Chirowodza alleged that Masundire was abducted from his home in Sizinda at around 10pm, by three armed suspected state security agents on July 29.
“One of them wore military fatigues with a belt of bullets strapped over his shoulder, while two wore police uniforms,” he said.
“Masundire suspects that he was taken to a stream or river in Matabeleland North where they tortured him heavily while he was naked.
“Like Madzana, the torture included being immersed in and out of water.
“He was later dumped at the traffic lights in Nkulumane 12,” he said.
“The three armed suspected state security agents were accompanied by other assailants, who remained inside two vehicles that were parked outside Masundire’s house.
“Masundire is still receiving medical attention,” he said.
Chirowodza said Falanga — beating the soles of the feet with a blunt object — which was a common torture method during the Gukurahundi atrocities was used on some victims of the abductions.
He said this Falanga method was used on Remember Moyo, Sazini Ndlovu and other MDC cadres, who were falsely accused of killing war veteran Cain Nkala.
Chirowodza said Mubasa’s house in Bulawayo’s Sizinda suburb was attacked by about eight suspected state security agents armed with AK-47s at approximately 2am on August 2.
He said the assailants attempted to burn the house down and repeatedly called out Mubasa’s name when they failed to gain entry.
“Mubasa survived by threatening suicide by arson, if the assailants dared to enter his house.
“Mubasa has reported the case to the police despite their poor record in solving similar issues,” Chirowodza said.
He condemned the alleged abductions, intimidation, torture and arrests of MDC Alliance members, human rights activists, students and recent harassment of relatives of a journalist in Bulawayo by suspected state security agents.
Chirowodza also claimed to have escaped an abduction attempt when suspected state security agents pounced at his home and broke in at midnight on July 30.
To gain entry, the suspected state security agents, who brandished AK-47s, smashed the window to his 13-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
“They then broke the door to another bedroom, grabbed beverages, a black Samsung cellphone, a DSTV decoder, MDC party regalia, clothing and other valuable household items,” he said.
Chirowodza claimed the assailants told his daughter that they wanted to kill him.
He said the agents, wielding AK-47s, broke into the home of MDC Alliance Bulawayo youth assembly executive member, Josphat “Mzaca” Ngulube in the early hours of July 29.
“They threatened his family after failing to find Mzaca.
“Mzaca says they “took away documents, all the money in the house and my uncle’s bottle store stock.”
Ngulube said they took away R11 000 and US$800 from his home.
The former civil servant told Sabc last week that he had fled to South Africa as he feared for his life.
A fornight ago, his niece Noxolo Maphosa was allegedly abducted by unknown assailants, who tortured her in a bid to force her to reveal Ngulube’s whereabouts.
Chirowodza also said MDC Alliance’s Bulawayo women assembly provincial chairperson Tendai Masotsha was arrested on July 30 at about 12:23pm and was briefly detained at Bulawayo’s Central Police Station.
He said after her release from police custody at or about 7pm, Masotsha was allegedly abducted by suspected state security agents outside Bulawayo Central Police Station, tortured severely and later dumped at Four Winds Shopping Centre at or about 4am on July 31.
MDC Alliance’s Bulawayo Central MP Nicola Watson’s home was allegedly raided by suspected state agents on July 30.
“They demanded to have material to do with the July 31 peaceful protests and proceeded to search Watson’s home in her absence.
“Armed with a fake search warrant, they even broke into one of the servants’ cottages,” Chirowodza said.
“Suspected state security agents stoned MDC Alliance national youth secretary for informal sector and livelihoods and Bulawayo Ward 22 councillor, Rodney Jele’s house on Saturday August 1, at 12:45 am.
“They smashed all the windows and drove off after attempting to forcefully gain entry.
“Rodney Jele has since lodged a report with the police.”
Chirowodza also said MDC Alliance Bulawayo youth provincial secretary Pashor Sibanda reported that suspected state security agents attacked his Cowdray Park family home, broke the gate keys and used the butt of an AK-47 rifle to smash windows at or about 1am on August 2.
“Pashor says the assailants, threatened his family at gunpoint so that they would reveal my whereabouts,” he said.
“The shocked and confused occupants of the house screamed to draw the neighbours’ attention.
After Pashor’s mother shouted “thieves” the assailants jumped over the precast wall and ran away.
The stories echoed that of 22-year-old Tawanda Muchehiwa, who was abducted by suspected state security agents driving an unmarked vehicle in Bulawayo on July 30 in the afternoon.
“Several methods of torture were used on Tawanda,” Chirowodza said.
“Unable to walk, with bruises all over his back and on the buttocks, he was dumped three days later near his house in the early hours of August 2.”
Muchehiwa is a cousin of Zimlive editor Mduduzi Mathuthu, who was forced into hiding after police raided his Bulawayo home on the day of the abduction.
Police used a search warrant that claimed that Mathuthu, who was instrumental in exposing a scandal where the government entered into a US$60 million procurement contract with a shaddy company for the supply of materials to fight Covid-19, was involved in the production of subversive material.
According to reports, the scandal involving the company known as Drax International implicated one of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s children.
Chirowodza called on the government to protect the rights of citizens as enshrined in the constitution of Zimbabwe.