By Professor Mutodzi
Prominent human rights campaigner Jestina Mukoko has rejected an unfamiliar offer by Zimbabwean authorities to pay compensation for the damages she suffered after she was abducted from her home and held incommunicado for almost one month in 2008.
Mukoko, the director of Zimbabwe Peace Project, which monitors and documents human rights violations, filed a $220 000 lawsuit against four cabinet ministers.
These include Didymus Mutasa, who at the time of her abduction served as State Security, Lands and Land Reform Minister, then Co-Ministers of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi of police Serious Frauds Squad, Attorney General of Zimbabwe and Brigadier Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi for damages she suffered after she was abducted and held incommunicado and tortured for three weeks at various locations by state security agents.
This was after the Supreme Court in September 2009 granted a stay of prosecution on charges of banditry and terrorism which the former broadcaster faced after ruling that several of her fundamental rights were violated when she was abducted, tortured and held incommunicado.
Mutasa, who was fired from Zanu PF in 2015 and now serves as one of the leaders of former Vice President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First party, defended the actions of the abductors and refused to divulge their identities, indicating that they had abducted Mukoko in fulfillment of their national duties.
Last month, lawyers from the Attorney General’s office who are representing the respondents queried the quantum of the damages claimed by Mukoko and proposed $30 000 as the most reasonable amount.
But Mukoko, through her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, turned down the offer and insisted that the quantum of the damages should be determined by the High Court, where the matter is now being heard.
“We have rejected this amount on the basis that the case they are relying on merely involved an unlawful arrest and detention and did not involve criminal abduction, torture over a three week period by State actors in what was an arranged and coordinated state abuse of power,” said the feisty Mtetwa, who also serves as chairperson of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights.
Apart from Mukoko, state security agents also abducted other human rights and political activists including a two-year old minor Nigel Mutemagawu and freelance journalist Andrison Manyere whom they tortured and held incommunicado before charging them with committing acts of banditry and terrorism.
The abductions which received widespread coverage in the local and international media, blighted President Mugabe’s government’s soiled human rights record.
Critics say the failure to prosecute and bring perpetrators of these abductions to account and those who participated during the Gukurahundi massacres and other violations is fuelling impunity resulting in the pervasive practice of enforced disappearances in Zimbabwe. Radio VOP