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ZCTU National Labour Protest - Sept 13, 2006 - Index of articles
Brutality Victim Speaks Out
Chidyausike in Harare, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (AR
September 27, 2006
trade union leader severely beaten in recent anti-government protest
The first vice
president of the Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions, ZCTU, has spoken to IWPR about the
appalling injuries she said she received at the hands of the police
after an attempt to lead an anti-government protest earlier this
said she was among 15 ZCTU leaders who were arrested and tortured
by police when they tried to attend
a rally against low wages and the authorities' inaction on the
HIV/AIDS epidemic, at a time when some 500 Zimbabweans are dying
daily from AIDS-related infections.
Matibenga, the only woman
in the group, suffered a fractured arm, perforated eardrum and bruised
kidneys. Matibenga, who has received treatment at Johannesburg's
Milpark Hopsital, spoke by cell phone to IWPR's Dzikamai Chidyausike
Mrs Matibenga you were one of fifteen ZCTU leaders arrested during
nationwide demonstrations against the policies of the ZANU PF government
on September 13. Press reports said you were severely beaten by
the police. Can you take us through the events leading to your arrest?
MATIBENGA: We had barely
marched 100 metres from our offices in Harare as planned when police
stopped us. They told us to sit on the tarmac - which we did - then
they crammed the fifteen of us into a police vehicle and took us
to Matapi police station. There they took our cell phones and handcuffed
us in pairs.
Each pair would be force-marched
into an empty room at the station, and then six police officers
would use truncheons to beat them. Sometimes they used clenched
fists and their police boots.
What were the police saying during these beatings?
accused us of trying to take back the country to the British (Zimbabwe's
former colonial power). They told me that they were going to put
me in my right place as a woman. They said they were beating me
so I could learn to concentrate on raising my family instead of
demonstrating. One of the police officers even boasted that he had
been trained to kill traitors like us.
You said they were beating you with batons and clenched fists. Can
you tell us where specifically they hit you?
MATIBENGA: They beat
me all over the body but they particularly targeted my back and
buttocks. During the torture I hit my head against the wall three
times and I was bleeding but the officers told me to stand up because
they had not yet finished with me.
Are you still in pain?
MATIBENGA: As I speak
right now, my face is swollen. I can't hear anything with my right
ear; the doctor told me that my eardrum is perforated because of
the impact of the claps from two of the officers.
What other injuries did you sustain?
MATIBENGA: My left hand
is swollen; I have an arm in a sling. One of the police officers
hit me just under the breast and I have difficulties breathing.
What did the police do after assaulting you?
MATIBENGA: They locked
my fourteen colleagues, all men, in a private office. I was made
to sit at the reception area because I was the only woman there
and they did not have a cell for me. I could hear my colleagues
whining in pain. Most of them had broken arms and limbs and they
were bleeding. I was later told that three of them fainted. They
were forced to sit under a table for hours.
Did they take you to the hospital?
until the next day. Our lawyers were not allowed to see us. For
hours our lawyer was told that we were not at that station. It was
only after a struggle that they allowed him to speak to us. He is
the one who negotiated with the police to take us to the hospital.
They only took us to [Harare's] Parirenyatwa Hospital [from where
Matibenga was later flown to Johannesburg for advanced care] around
10 pm about 25 hours after the beating but not before they had transferred
us to the Central police station to charge us under the Public
Order and Security Act [a draconian catch-all law which bans
gatherings of more than two people without police permission, and
which outlaws the making of statements "prejudicial to the
State" or which "insult the President"]. During that
time none of us was allowed to take a bath.
Up to now, I am shocked
by the level of aggression displayed by the police. I can imagine
how many people go through these things everyday, especially women.
Will you go back into the streets to protest after the torture.
MATIBENGA: This government
is dangerous. I am afraid they will come back for me, but there
is no going back. We will continue with the demonstrations because
we have realised that is the only language that the [President Robert]
Mugabe government can only understand.
Do you consider the demonstration to have been successful?
MATIBENGA: The fact that
they had to resort to arresting and torturing us is a clear sign
that the government is aware of the concerns of the workers. This
government is scared. So, yes, they can arrest us but they have
got the message. It's loud and clear.
Chidyausike is the pseudonym of an IWPR contributor in Zimbabwe.
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