Rights violations continue unabated in Zimbabwe

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THE era of forced disappearances and torture in Zimbabwe is far from over. What is perhaps even more shocking than the horrific ordeal that three Zimbabwean female youth leaders went through last month when they were brutalised, assaulted and left for dead by suspected security agents is that there have been 49 abductions by state agents in the past 10 months.

The gross violations of human rights sanctioned by the state has become endemic, and without calls for accountability emanating from the region, this sorry state of affairs is likely to worsen.

The cycle of violence perpetrated by security forces seems to evoke outrage and then dissipate over time, with the perpetrators remaining in their positions ready to commit the next round of carnage.

As Dr Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean academic and law professor, has lamented: “The system knows our outrage has a short shelf life. We forget too soon and jump on to the next point of outrage thrown by the system. In its viciousness the system will do it again and again.

“We will circulate the images and stories again before the outrage wilts and we wait again. From time to time we must take stock of our outrage.”

We thought that when former president Kgalema Motlanthe led the inquiry into the killings by security forces on August1, 2018, following the elections, that it may have been a turning point.

The hope was that regional leaders would be forced to confront the reality that the Zimbabwean security forces were out of control and had to be held to account.

But perhaps we should have known that two years later we would still be waiting for the commission’s recommendations to be implemented.

This has been a typical case of a president calling for a commission of inquiry, only to sweep its findings under the carpet.

Just six months later came the massacre and rapes by the security forces against civilians following protests against the dire economic situation in the country.

The government imposed a three-day internet blackout, and by the end of that period security forces had carried out 17 extrajudicial killings, 17 rapes and 26 abductions.

One soldier admitted to a journalist from the Telegraph that he had systematically broken legs and participated in rape as he took part in door-to-door operations. On ITV News Africa, 11 women admitted that they had been raped in their own homes by soldiers.

Eighteen months after the government’s violent crackdown, these women are still waiting for justice – justice that is unlikely to ever come.

Just as Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi claimed this month that the three women youth leaders brutalised by suspected security agents had “made up their story”, so too did the press secretary in the president’s office, George Charamba, say that the women who claimed to have been raped 18 months ago had “manufactured their allegations to make the government look bad”.

That will be the standard refrain time and again.

The Zimbabwean government needs to set up an independent complaints mechanism so that members of the public will feel comfortable seeking proper investigations into such crimes.

To date the government has refused to fulfil the requirements of Section 210 of the Zimbabwean constitution, which is the establishment of an effective and independent mechanism for the investigation of complaints of misconduct by the security services.