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Fri Sep 30, 2016

Disturbing reports of torture of political activists in Zimbabwe

Once again, disturbing reports are emerging from Zimbabwe of widespread arrests, abductions and even torture of protesters. The government is cracking down on the opposition parties—who have rallied under the banner of the “National Reform Agenda” (NERA)—and on civil society groups calling for President Robert Mugabe’s resignation. Police in riot gear have stopped peaceful public protests organized by opposition parties and citizen-led groups such as Occupy Africa Unity Square, #ThisFlag, Tajamuka/Sesijikile, and ThisFlower. Recent events are reminiscent of the widespread violence during the Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, when President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party orchestrated a campaign of terror and politically-motivated sexual violence to control dissent.

In the past few weeks alone, political activists participating in the NERA demonstrations calling for electoral reform and Mugabe’s resignation were severely tortured, resulting in gruesome press photos of blisters and open wounds. The injuries were so severe that some of the activists were lying on their backs unable to sit throughout their court appearances. Prior to the NERA demonstrations, a citizen activist Silvanos Mudzvova was abducted from his home in front of his family and tortured in a highly sexualized manner that included the application of electric shock to his genitals.  

Opposition groups have been quick to condemn the regime’s violent tactics, but as protest movements gain traction, it’s clear that the ruling ZANU-PF party will use all the tools at its disposal to retain power. Civil society groups and opposition political parties have called for international support in condemning the brutality of the regime and calling it to account; hoping that global attention will limit the government’s ability to harm its citizens and repeat the widespread intimidation, torture and rape that helped affirm its hold on power in 2008.  
AIDS-Free World has long been concerned about the Mugabe regime’s tactics of resorting to rape and other acts of politically motivated violence, to maintain its unlawful grip on power. Indeed, Mugabe’s legacy of violence began as early as the 1980’s but was hushed, giving way to the “liberation hero” narrative that he has used to justify his dictatorship. AIDS-Free World joins other advocates working in Zimbabwe on behalf of the victims of state-sponsored violence in calling for an end to arbitrary arrests, abductions, torture and sexual violence.