Group collects evidence enough to prosecute Robert Mugabe

The group, co-headed by former United Nations ambassador Stephen Lewis, says the sworn testimony is powerful evidence that Mr. Mugabe and his party were responsible for a systematic campaign of rape against opposition supporters in last year’s election.

In a report to be released today, the group documents the cases of 70 Zimbabwean women, all opposition supporters, who were collectively raped at least 380 times by 241 different members of the ruling party and its affiliated organizations. Their sworn affidavits were gathered by teams of lawyers who conducted more than 300 hours of interviews with the victims.

The leaders of Mr. Mugabe’s party are reportedly preparing their militias for another campaign of systematic rape in the next presidential election, the report says. To stop them from doing it again, they must be prosecuted under international laws on crimes against humanity, it says.

"Continued impunity will be a green light for the next rape campaign," it says. "The infrastructure necessary for executing another campaign of rape during the next election period already exists in Zimbabwe, and there are credible claims it is being reinvigorated now."

The advocacy group, AIDS-Free World, says its investigators and lawyers found clear evidence that the rapes last year were systematic, widespread and organized, affecting thousands of victims across Zimbabwe.

It says the affidavits from the 70 women "all share a common narrative: politically motivated attacks, the orchestrated use of rape as a tool of terror and intimidation, and the deliberate effort to harm, humiliate and degrade women within their communities as a way to subjugate those communities."

In each of the 70 rape cases, the victims were supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition party in last year’s election. Most were organizers or activists in the party. And in each case, the report said, the perpetrators were clearly identifiable as members of the youth militia of the ruling party, ZANU-PF, or its affiliated organization of war veterans.

In 33 cases, for example, the rapists were wearing ZANU-PF shirts. In 17 cases, the attackers were singing the party’s songs or chanting its slogans. And in 67 of the 70 cases, the rapists made political statements that made clear that they were ZANU-PF members, or that they were attacking the women because of their MDC involvement, the report says.

In almost every case, the women said the attacks began when their homes were surrounded by mobs of ZANU-PF supporters who looted and destroyed their property. Most of the women were abducted and taken to militia bases or bush locations, where they were raped. Others were raped in their homes.

"Each woman, on average, was raped five times, although these numbers may be underestimates because many women fell unconscious during the violent rapes and therefore lost count of the number of rapists and rapes at some point," the report says.

Many of the women said their attackers were obeying orders from leaders among them. One woman said her attackers were led by a commander who claimed that Mr. Mugabe himself had ordered the attacks. "If you meet an MDC supporter, do whatever you want to them," the commander said, quoting Mr. Mugabe, according to her testimony.

Zimbabwean police have consistently refused to investigate the rapes, the report says. Since it is virtually impossible for the attackers and organizers of the rape campaign to be prosecuted in Zimbabwe, the report proposes that they could be prosecuted in another African state such as South Africa, which has laws authorizing the prosecution of international crimes such as crimes against humanity when the alleged perpetrators are in South African territory. Zimbabweans often travel to South Africa for work or business.

Meanwhile, another group, The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum has compiled a report detailing Mugabe’s control of the armed forces making his Zanu PF party invincible

The report says, in an article published on the website on 24 December 2007, the author, Freeman Forward Chari, posed the following question:

“In a country of nearly 200 000 military people….. whose public sector is run by the military, where does the common man fit in? Is there a possibility of civil participation in the country?”

Chari breaks down the military component for 2007 as follows, but does not indicate his sources, so the accuracy of his figures cannot be confirmed:

Security Forces – total 80 000

 Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA): 35 000
 Air Force of Zimbabwe (AFZ): 5 000
 Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP): 25 000
 Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO): 15 000

Those with a basic knowledge of military operations/training – total 110 000

 Prisons Service: 10 000
 War veterans: 35 000
 Trained youths / youth militia: 30 000 graduates since 2005
 Zimbabwe People’s Militia (trained in ‘80s): 20 000 vigilantes/youths
 Plus voluntary retirements from ZNA & ZRP: 15 000

Total number: 190 000

“This means we have (in 2007) at least 190 000 people in Zimbabwe who have a basic understanding of military language,” wrote Chari.

He reminded Zimbabweans that, at the level of leadership and policy formulation, there was a need to also explore the level of involvement of the military in strategic entities that deal strictly with civilians. In December 2007, the line-up was:

 Minister of Energy and Power Development – Rtd Lieutenant General Mike Nyambuya.
 Minister of Youth Development and Employment Creation – Rtd Brigadier General Ambrose Mutinhiri.
 Ministry of Transport – Rtd Colonel Hubert Nyanhongo, Deputy Minister
 National Railways of Zimbabwe – Brigadier Douglas Nyikayaramba (Board chairman) and Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai (CEO).
 Grain Marketing Board – Rtd Colonel Samuel Muvuti (CEO).
 Permanent Secretary for Industry and International Trade – Rt Colonel Christian Katsande.
 Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) – Justice Chiweshe, (head) a former Advocate-General in the Zimbabwe National Army.
 Attorney General – Sobuza Gula-Ndebele, a retired Colonel.
 Sports and Recreation Commission – Brigadier General Gibson Mashingaidze and Rtd Lt Colonel Charles Nhemachena.

Chari summed up the relevance of the appointments as follows:

Zanu PF controls:

 Food (Grain Marketing Board – GMB)
 Transport
 Energy, fuel, power
 Trade and industry
 Sport
 Youth
 The Attorney General
 Elections.

Chari pointed out that Joint Operations Command (JOC) comprises the ministries of Defence, Finance, State Security, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs. “The military therefore controls the finances and even the foreign policy is directed by the military and not parliament,” he said.

Major Martin Saurombe (Rt), writing for the website in 2007, brought in an interesting perspective. He reminded Zimbabweans that, in politicising the military, Zanu PF had started by appointing raw guerrillas to top posts in the army.

He noted that:

 General Solomon Mujuru commanded the army from 1981 to 1992 without attending a single military course.
 The late General Vitalis Zvinavashe, retired former commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, also never attended any military courses.
 Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander, General Constantine Chiwenga, Air Force Commander Perence Shiri and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri are also politicians in military uniform.

One wonders how many people are aware of this fact.

Frustration in the ranks

Despite the fact that it became very dangerous for members of the armed forces to show the slightest signs of disloyalty to Zanu PF, by mid 2007 the dissatisfaction that had been brewing began to mount and to be expressed openly.

In August, Perence Shiri and Constantine Chiwenga were shocked when they were booed by junior soldiers at the KG VI Barracks in Harare for trying to convince them that the hardships being experienced in the military were caused by sanctions imposed by Britain and the USA.

The following month, disgruntled veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation war asked government to hike their monthly allowances five-fold, just two weeks after pledging undying loyalty to Mugabe and declaring him the only one fit to rule the country.

Four months later, in January 2008, former army general Vitalis Zvinavashe sent political temperatures within Zanu-PF soaring after calling on Robert Mugabe to step down. Zvinavashe is reported to have said that, “by clinging onto power, Mugabe was betraying the essence of the liberation struggle.”

Mugabe’s hatchet men

Authoritative journalist Basildon Peta wrote in an article published in the Sunday Independent of June 29, 2008 that “the multi-billionaires who have Zimbabwe by the throat are right to dread the people’s revenge.”

He listed Mugabe’s six “hatchet-men” as Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, General Constantine Chiwenga, Augustine Chihuri, Paradzai Zimondi, Perence Shiri and Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono. He noted that this Joint Operations Command junta controls Zimbabwe.

“When Mugabe lost control of parliament and it became clear that he was also losing the presidency to Morgan Tsvangirai after the poll on March 29, it was these six men who hurriedly assembled around their octogenarian leader,” explained Peta.

“For five weeks, the announcement of the presidential election results were stalled while they plotted…(but) none of their charges stuck.

“So they unleashed the infamous Operation Makavhoterapapi (For whom did you vote?) in preparation for the presidential runoff….”

Peta reports that it was Constantine Chiwenga, as commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Force, who spearheaded the campaign of violence that led to the deaths of 86 people, the serious injuries inflicted on thousands more and the massive displacements countrywide.

Police and army clash in Harare

By the beginning of December 2008, tensions across the country were heating up. In Harare, police shot at rioting soldiers on the streets as unpaid uniformed personnel sided with the country’s impoverished people for the first time in protest against Zimbabwe’s collapsing economy.

“If Mr Mugabe is unable to maintain loyalty even within his own armed services, his position will come under serious threat,” commented The Telegraph (UK) on December 1.

The following day, Mugabe ordered the execution of 16 rioting soldiers in a cold blood murder carried out by members of the Presidential Guard death squads at its PG HQ Base in Dzivarasekwa, north west of the capital. Three others were reported to have died during torture.

The fast-track military court martial was presided over by High Court Judge Major General George Chiewshe, with three other assessors, two majors and a captain. Chiweshe, who is the current Chairman of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, was previously Director Army Legal Services.

Soldiers tortured following theft of guns

During October 2009, at least 12 soldiers died after they were brutally tortured by military intelligence agents following the alleged disappearance of an assortment of guns and other military equipment from Pomona barracks.

By early November reports were being leaked that an additional 120 soldiers had been horrifically tortured at KG VI Barracks in Harare following the alleged theft of the guns. SW Radio Africa warned of rising tension in the Zimbabwe National Army.

A retired army colonel who fought with ZANLA forces in Mozambique, told the radio station that Robert Mugabe had lost the control and trust of the army. (ZANLA was the armed wing of ZANU PF during the liberation war of the 1970s).

Security reports from Zimbabwe indicated the situation was volatile.

Fear of reprisals, retribution and paranoia

Dr George Ayittey, a prominent Ghanaian economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC, analysed the militarisation of Zanu-PF in Part 1 of “The Zimbabwe Conundrum” (September 8, 2009) as follows:

“The hierarchy of the ruling Zanu-PF has fully been “militarized” or integrated with the security apparatus. The security chiefs who are behind President Mugabe presently — Paradzai Zimondi (rtd), head of prison service, Augustine Chihuri, head of the police force, Perence Shiri — want Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also the choice of “war of liberation veterans,” to succeed Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, known as the “Butcher of Matabeleland,” is known for his uncompromising stance and ruthlessness. He was the Minister of State Security who orchestrated a systematic and brutal 1981-1983 campaign (known as Gukurahundi) to suppress the Ndebele people and wipe out the main opposition, ZAPU and its leader, the late Joshua Nkomo.

It is fear of reprisals, retribution and paranoia which haunts the ruling Zanu-PF regime…. Their hands are dripping in blood and their pockets are full of booty. They are afraid that all their gory misdeeds will be exposed once they are out of power. So they must do everything they can to cling to power. They must crush the opposition and ruthlessly silence any whiff of protest. But in doing so, they dig deeper graves for themselves because these brutal tactics seldom work.

African tyrants spend an inordinate amount on an elaborate security-cum-military structure to protect themselves and suppress their people. Since they came to power through illegitimate means (a military coup or stolen election), they are suspicious of everyone and paranoid of any little event, however innocuous. So they spend huge resources creating layers upon layers of security – just in case one level fails – and shower security agents with perks and amenities. But in the end, they are hoisted by their own petards – overthrown by their own security apparatus.

The more an African head of state spends on security, the more likely he will be overthrown by someone from his security forces…. The Zanu-PF regime, in contemplating its imminent demise, should ask itself whether more investments in lethal weaponry and brutal repression will pay off.”

In Part 2 of The Zimbabwe Conundrum (September10, 2009), Ayittey notes that, in all of Africa’s post-colonial cases where intransigent autocrats refused to yield to popular demands for freedom and took hard line positions, the threat to the despotic regime did not come from the opposition parties. It came from:

1. Within the despot’s own security apparatus / circle of officers / family members
2. Rebel groups
3. Invasion from a neighbouring country.
Ayittey explains that the insurgency often started with a small band of determined rebels and says it was relatively cheap to start a rebellion.

According to Ayittey, Zanu-PF has two choices: The first is to maintain its hard-line stance – which he says is invariably a dead end – and the second is to adopt a more conciliatory approach.

“Political leaders who were willing to yield to the popular will and make amends saved not only themselves but their countries as well,” writes Ayittey.

Holding Zimbabwe to ransom – a clique of 200

In view of escalating dissatisfaction within the ranks of the armed forces, Zimbabwean commentators say it is fallacious to believe that Zimbabwe is being held to ransom by security forces who remain loyal to Mugabe.

Furthermore, they point out that the improvements within the economy – which are clearly understood to be the result of Finance Minister Tendai Biti (MDC-T)’s achievements – are already impacting positively on the lives of their families and communities.

The glimmerings of optimism that followed the signing of the Global Political Agreement are now being bolstered by the decisiveness and firm approach of South African President Jacob Zuma.

President Zuma, with the support of the Southern African Development Community, is clearly committed to solving the Zimbabwean crisis and restoring peace and democracy across the Limpopo.

The question that must be asked is this: Who exactly is holding Zimbabwe to ransom and how strong is this grouping?

Political commentators believe that it’s a cabal of about 200 people comprising senior serving army officers, the members of Joint Operations Command and a clique of Mugabe cronies who have benefited substantially over the years from his patronage.

This ties in with a report released at the SADC summit in Kinshasa during early September by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition. Comprising over 350 civil society organisations, Crisis said it had information that over 70 top military officers remained in the provinces where they were deployed after President Mugabe and Zanu-PF suffered a devastating electoral loss just after the March 29 poll last year.

Clearly they are crucial in the equation. Crisis called on the inclusive government to immediately get the army out of the countryside and recall them to barracks.

In Part 2 of ‘The Conundrum on Zimbabwe”, Ayittey claims that the game is up for Zanu-PF.

“It has lost all credibility with the Zimbabwean people. It has become an imposition – a cancer – on Zimbabwe’s body politic – a far cry from the liberation stature it once enjoyed. Fear and paranoia are driving the regime to cling to power at all cost – by force and with brutal repression,” he writes.

This changed scenario presents an opportunity for President Zuma, his South African negotiating team and the leaders of SADC, who have clearly lost patience with President Mugabe and Zanu-PF, and who want to see a speedy solution to the crisis. The fallout on the entire region, while difficult to quantify, has been very significant.

To have found a peaceful solution to the Zimbabwean crisis in the period when Mugabe had the unequivocal support of a sizeable armed forces component would have presented a major problem.

To be faced instead with a clique of just 200 or so people who have brazenly amassed great wealth for themselves and their families while leaving the Zimbabwean people impoverished is totally different situation.

For a powerful country like South Africa, which holds all the trump cards, dealing with the dregs of a regime that has blighted the face of southern Africa suddenly becomes eminently manageable.