A man died on Sunday hours after being savagely beaten by soldiers in Harare – the latest victim of an ongoing crackdown by security forces which began following nationwide fuel protests on January 14.
Kudakwashe Rixon, 22, was returning home from work at the Long Cheng Plaza last Saturday and had just disembarked at the Copacabana terminus when he was seized by a group of soldiers in uniform, according to a police report seen by ZimLive.
“They dragged him to their motor vehicle (Puma) which was parked nearby. The team then ordered Rixon and other male adults who were there to lie down in the vehicle on their stomachs. The driver drove off to an unknown bushy area where the team ordered all the people to get out of the lorry by falling down,” the police report of the incident reported at Harare Central Police Station under crime reference I.R 011951 says.
Once outside the army truck, Rixon and the other men were repeatedly struck with “wire-fastened sjamboks, knobkerries and iron rods.”
Rixon proceeded to his home on Canaan Chipunza Street in Mbare where his family observed that his back was swollen, with visible marks of the severe beating with crude weapons.
At 8AM on Sunday, Rixon complained of severe abdominal pains. He was also failing to release stool. He died before admission at Harare Hospital.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who cancelled a trip to Davos last week and returned home in the wake of the protests and the security forces’ crackdown, has pledged to investigate any abuses by the military – but few believe him.
Soldiers remain deployed in urban areas around the country, where they are hunting down people suspected to have participated in protests on January 14. Young men are routinely rounded up in night raids and savagely beaten and tortured. Rights groups say dozens of women have been raped.
The exact number of dead remains unknown, but the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said in a January 17 statement that it had documented 12 deaths. The death toll is expected to be much higher when human rights groups consolidate their reports.
Prominent Harare lawyer Fadzayi Mahere says Mnangagwa should be held accountable for the abuses by the military.
“Mnangagwa is the commander-in-chief – only he can lawfully deploy soldiers on to the street or make them step down. The buck stops with Mnangagwa when it comes to blame for the ongoing violence,” Mahere wrote in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
The government’s resort to “military control of civilian life is the clearest sign of failed leadership” by Mnangagwa, who toppled former President Robert Mugabe in a military coup in November 2017, Mahere said.
“It’s clear that until the military is removed from civilian spaces, Zimbabwe will only plunge into deeper political and economic misery,” the lawyer added.