HARARE – Three female MDC Alliance activists who were missing a day after taking part in a protest over food shortages were found “badly beaten” and “tortured” on Thursday night, the party and its lawyers said on Friday.
Netsai Marova and Cecilia Chimbiri and Harare West MP Joana Mamombe were taken to a private hospital in Harare for treatment early Friday after being found near Bindura, with their clothes torn, the MDC said.
“The three cadres are in bad shape. Honourable Mamombe and Marova are having difficulties walking. Chimbiri is complaining of severe head pains,” Luke Tamborinyoka, an MDC spokesman, said.
The MDC says the three activists say they were arrested at a police checkpoint after taking part in a “flash demonstration” in the suburb of Warren Park in Harare on Wednesday.
Police initially confirmed their arrest, but later recanted, saying the three were not in their custody.
According to Tamborinyoka, the three women have told their lawyers that they were taken from Harare Central Police Station by unidentified men driving a black Toyota Wish.
“They covered their heads with sacks and took them to a forest where they were placed in a pit and assaulted,” Tamborinyoka said.
“They are recounting horrendous stories of abuse and humiliation which included being forced to eat human excreta. Their clothes are torn, and they are heavily traumatised.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, which had filed an urgent court application demanding that whoever was holding the MDC activists should release them, said they were called to Muchapondwa Village in Bindura South where the three had been accommodated by a villager.
“They have been badly tortured,” the lawyers said in a statement. “We strongly condemn such wanton disregard of human rights and the Constitution. Enforced disappearances, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment can never be justified, all perpetrators must be held accountable.”
The MDC said it holds the police responsible for the torture the women suffered after they were sprung from lawful police custody.
Zimbabwe has a history of enforced disappearances of government opponents. President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s regime has previously blamed a “third force” for abducting his opponents, but few are convinced.
Police spokesman Paul Nyathi was quoted by state-owned and private press as saying the three had been arrested for taking part in an unsanctioned demonstration on Wednesday.
But in a statement later on Thursday, police denied holding the MDC members in their custody and said law enforcement agents wanted to interview the activists in connection with the protest that drew a few dozen people.
The embassies of Britain, Canada, the United States and the European Union mission in Harare had expressed concern via social media over the missing activists and said police should swiftly establish their whereabouts and wellbeing – Kukurigo