via Chombo, Ziyambi named in poll violence – DailyNews Live 27 August 2015 by Mugove Tafirenyika
HARARE – Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo and his deputy Ziyambi Ziyambi have been named in a damning long-awaited government report as being among those suspected of planning and financing by-election violence in Hurungwe West, where villagers were viciously tortured.
If recommendations in the report are enforced, Chombo and Ziyambi face trial at the local criminal courts for crimes against humanity on charges related to the special election violence, but prosecution of the two is unlikely because their ministerial portfolio superintends over the police.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) report recommended prosecution of the two.
ZHRC, created in February 2009 during the inclusive government era, became operational in June 2014, and is the first statutory body since independence in 1980 tasked with investigating rights abuses.
The government-funded report found that the two ministers directed Zanu PF youths to torture and assault independent candidate Temba Mliswa’s employees at his Spring Farm in Karoi, among other violations.
The violations were recorded ahead of the crunch June 10 by-elections controversially won by Zanu PF’s Keith Guzah, whose victory was unsuccessfully challenged in court by Mliswa. Mliswa then filed a complaint with the ZHRC, prompting it to send a team to the hotbed to investigate.
“It was noted that as long as one pays allegiance to the ruling Zanu PF party they do as they please, without being questioned, as long as they declare that their actions have been sanctioned by honourable Ziyambi and honourable Ignatius Chombo,” reads the ZHRC report.
“It is recommended that the commissioner general of police should immediately investigate the criminal human rights violations which occurred at Spring Farm namely torture and assault and ensure that all the perpetrators are made to account for their criminal activities.”
The complainant, Goodwill Zinyama, who was Mliswa’s election agent, alleged that the rights abuses flared up after Chombo and his accomplices addressed a campaign rally at Nyamhunga Primary School where they called for Mliswa’s violent ouster from the constituency as well as the seizure of his farm.
The police was also accused of turning a blind eye to the main perpetrators of human rights violations including enforced disappearances and torture, the damning report says.
The commission said that during the period it was mandated to investigate, Zanu PF stripped farm workers’ right to dignity, making political choices freely, bodily integrity and liberty, health care and the right not to be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
While attempts to get Chombo’s side of the story were unsuccessful, Ziyambi denied the allegations.
Ziyambi, according to the report, indicated that Zanu PF youths had not invaded the farm but were “exercising their right to demonstrate and register their dissatisfaction with the conduct of Temba Mliswa.”
The commission also found out that villagers had lost confidence in the effectiveness of the police force ostensibly because they were taking orders from the Zanu PF bigwigs.
“It was reported that whenever in the presence of the officer-in-charge Karoi or other police officers, the Zanu PF youths would call their bosses and this intimidated the police officers as they were further threatened with unspecified action or transfer to remote areas,” the 31-page report said.
“It was noted that there is disregard of the law when it comes to people who are deemed not allegiant to the ruling party. Village headmen were assaulted and demoted in public thus dehumanising them.”
ZHRC said there were “undisputable facts” that Zanu PF youths had occupied the farm and that it was during their occupation that acts of violence were committed.
“The Zanu PF youths cannot exonerate themselves from the violence that occurred during the course and scope of their occupation of the farm, it was their responsibility to ensure that during the occupation that no rights were violated,” ZHRC report said.
“The farm workers at Spring Farm are living in fear. Threats were made over their lives and security in general. When the team visited, the youths had promised to come back and finish the process of taking over the farm.”
They were, however, interdicted by a court order, with the action earning the judiciary kudos from the rights commission.
“From the above observations, the ZHRC applauds the judiciary, particularly the High Court of Zimbabwe for issuing out an order for the eviction of the people who had unlawfully invaded Spring Farm,” the report said.
The rights group said police who were deployed at the farm were outnumbered by the youths and they would also drink beer and socialise with the assailants.
“This caused the victims to suffer in silence without reporting,” the report said.