President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has accused the opposition of staging-managing the abduction and torture of activists to soil the image of the country amid reports at least 18 people have been affected.
A number of MDC and civil society activists have in the last two weeks been allegedly abducted by armed gunmen who went on to torture them.
Popular comedian Samantha Kureya, who goes by the stage name Gonyeti, has been hospitalised after armed men seized her from her Harare home at night and tortured her.
The abductions coincided with calls by the main opposition party to stage countrywide protests against the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
Mnangagwa’s government has come under unprecedented pressure from the international community to stop the human rights violations.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the government was not involved in the abductions of the opposition party and civil society activists.
“Why would we abduct people? To tarnish our own image? It is the MDC who are faking abductions, they are doing it so that they can remain relevant,” he said.
“They have realised that they were becoming irrelevant. After the demonstration in January, all the other demonstrations that they tried have failed.
“Who would abduct Gonyeti for Christ’s sake?
“Some people I began to know them after their abductions allegations.”
Nick Mangwana, the government spokesperson, claimed people were being paid to stage the abductions.
This is despite the fact that Kureya’s tormentors also assaulted members of her family and left her severely injured.
“Actors are being paid to come up with performances and not so true accusations of abductions,” Mangwana claimed.
“The opposition has said it’s changing tactics from protests.
“It’s within logical reason to believe that they have moved to dirty tactics and dark arts supported by the former establishment people.”
Mangwana has also previously blamed the human rights violations on loyalists of former president Robert Mugabe who were dismissed from the country’s security establishment.
However, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum chairperson Jestina Mukoko said there were reasonable grounds to suspect that the state was behind the abductions.
“There has been an increase in the number of abductions over the past few days, may be it was because of the demonstrations. It is inhumane and disgraceful,” she said.
“It is the State coming up with such statements that there is a third hand.
“Where do some people other than them have access to guns? Even if you check my case, the Constitutional Court unanimously ruled that I was abducted by State agents.
“ So from my experience, it is the State behind all these. Abductions have been done by the State in the past.
“I am sure the trend has not yet changed. The (former) minister of State Security (Didymus Mutasa) at one time stated in a certain document to protect those State agents.”
Mukoko said the Justice ministry had been claiming that Kureya stage-managed her abduction.
“Government should come out clearly and state its position. If not we are going in the dark, if someone commits crime, they should be arrested,” she said.
“Due process should be followed. Why abducting them? Those who abduct people should be held accountable.”
Mangwana yesterday insisted that Mugabe loyalists could be behind the abductions, claiming that it was possible they could be working with the opposition..
“We suspect it’s a serious team of former establishment people who are opposed to the reform agenda,” he added.
“They are also bent on ensuring that the ED presidency is not successful and are surely bent on derailing it.
“There is also a hypothesis that they are working closely with the opposition.”
MDC spokesperson Daniel Molokele said they suspected the government was behind the abductions.
“Investigations are still ongoing, so, it is difficult to know exactly where it is, but my fears and suspicion is that these are being funded by the State,” he said, “So, there is a hand of the government in this, that is my suspicion, that it is the way the regime is reacting to intimidate and to instil fear in the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional coordinator Blessing Vava said abductions and torture were weapons used by the ruling party to intimidate and instil fear among citizens.
“It is naïve to think that that there is a third force that is orchestrating these abductions,” he said.
“We know that this has been Zanu PF practice over the years. It is clear it is the hand of the military, they are the ones that have guns.
“No ordinary Zimbabwean can do such an operation and it shows that these are people who are trained, these are people who know what they are doing.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they were investigating the abductions.
“As for us, we are conducting investigations, none has been arrested,” he said.
“We are investigating those cases which have been reported to us.
“We are investigating without rushing to conclusions. It is wrong for people especially the media to put in conclusions.
“I am appealing to the media to wait till investigations are over,” he said.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Mugwadi said they could not comment on the issue because they were still carrying out investigations.
— The Standard