Friday, May 23, 2008

Prison conditions in Mutare appaling

Mutare – The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)is worried at the appalling prison conditions at Mutare Remand Prison following a recent operation by police to net people allegedly hunting for the precious diamonds at Chiadzwa fields in Marange, about 90 km south of Mutare.

"The prison service in Mutare has been overwhelmed seriously and Mutare Remand Prison for instance now holds over 1 100 prisoners instead of 300 which is its capacity," said Tinoziva Bere, a senior member of the Law Society of Zimbabwe.

Two weeks ago the police launched a massive operation to restore order at the diamond fields and close to 1 500 illegal miners, dealers and vendors which included children as young as 12 and 13 years of age.

Those arrested have been appearing in court in groups of 10 to 12 and forced to make chorus pleas.

Bere said armed police with specially trained dogs invaded the Chiadzwa area and arrested hundreds of men, women and children and detained them in conditions that were inhumane.

The exercise resulted in some of the people being bitten by the dogs, others were assaulted by the police officers and others sustained injuries from falling as they were being chased by the ferocious police dogs.

"Many complain that they were arrested from the main road, their homes, the grazing fields, shopping centres and villages/homestead in and around the Chiadzwa area."

Some claimed they had nothing to do with the hunting of the precious mineral but were vendors selling their goods in and around the area while others said they were mere visitors to their relatives and friends in the area.

The lawyers said the police forcefully opened their homes and confiscated foodstuff and groceries some which was thrown away and destroyed.

"Those who had money on them claim that it was taken by the police without being recorded," said "Bere.

"Most detainees claim that they were taken to various detention places and police stations where they were kept in crowded filthy conditions for as long as four to five days in some cases before being brought to court. The numbers were such the toilet and bathing facilities were inadequate to non-existent. Most when brought to court had not bathed since arrest and some had nothing or little to eat."

Most carried visible injuries especially vicious and deep dog bites and had not received any tetanus injection or any medication at all.

"They still wore the clothes they were in when arrested and some had visible bloodstains. A number had to be assisted to get into and out of court," said the lawyers, adding, at least 25 in every 100 prisoners are injured in one way or the other.

"All those interviewed never had warned and cautioned statements recorded from them and were simply told when they get to court to plead guilty to the charges so that they would be asked to pay a mere fine for environmental damage and be released. Many were not aware that in fact the charges preferred were tied to a minimum sentence of 2 years imprisonment."

Bere accused judiciary officers of failing to discharge their duties properly. Magistrates were accused of conducting fast track mass trials which were a miscarriage of justice.

"There is chaos in the record keeping, the movement of prisoners, the identities of prisoners, and the identification of appropriate courts where proceedings should take place, there is no recording equipment, and there is a terrible stench that one senses from the court house because of the numbers of wounded, unbathed prisoners."

The lawyers said the detained suspects had little or no access to their relatives and lawyers were having difficulty tracing their clients or the record or prison numbers or venues for their hearings.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Commercial sex workers now want forex

MUTARE – Commercial sex workers have joined the bandwagon of providers of goods and services charging their products in foreign currency as the Zimbabwean Dollar continue to loose value.
The relentless free fall of the Zimbabwean Dollar and galloping hyper inflation has resulted in most businesses and property owners charging in foreign currency for their goods and services.
The government has warned such practices are illegal and anyone caught charging in foreign currency risk arrest and imprisonment. But businesses and property owners remain defiant ignoring the threats.
Commercial sex workers in this eastern border city have also joined in and are now charging in foreign currency for their services. They say this will also hedge them against inflation which is now estimated at 350 000 percent, the world’s highest.
The women plying the world’s oldest profession are charging amounts raging from between US$30 to US$150 – amounts which are excessive if converted into the Zimbabwean currency.
Thirty United States Dollars are equlvalent to just over ZW$ 10 billion and US$150 is just over ZW$ 52 Billion.
Senior civil servants earn a monthly income of ZW $20 Billion. The harsh economic situation in Zimbabwe has driven most women, both young and old, into prostitution as a means of survival.
There is no shortage of business for these women. The eastern border city is awash with the Greenback as it is close to the diamond fields in Marange.
Thousands of people either mines illegally mine the germs or they are go between foreign buyers and the miners.
Thousands of United States Dollars exchange hands everyday in the streets of Mutare. The discovery of diamonds at Chadzwa, Marange, about 40 km south of Mutare changed the face of the city.
Hundreds of previously impoverished people had their status instantly transformed from rags to mega riches as a result of dealing in diamonds.
The majority of them spend their instantly found fortunes in entertainment and in the process fuel prostitution.
“Diamond dealers are very generous,” said a 21-year old commercial sex worker from Sakubva high density suburb, who identified herself only as Sarah. “They can pay an amount in US Dollars as long as he enjoys your service.”
Sarah operates from a lodge nestled between the city’s up market low density suburbs of Murambi and Morningside.
Her colleague scantly dressed and in heavy make-up, weighed in saying, most of her clients were diamond dealers and at times whites who would have visited the city from across the border in Mozambique.
“The Zimbabwean Dollar is depreciating everyday so it is better to do business using the US Dollar,” she said, “I have since stopped charging in Zimbabwe Dollars because the money is worthless the next morning.” The woman, in her early twenties declined to identify herself.
The upsurge in the numbers of commercial sex workers has stoked fears of an increase in the number of HIV-AIDS cases in a country already rated as one of the most affected in the world.
One in every five adults in Zimbabwe is infected by HIV or is already suffering from AIDS related ailments.
Prostitution is illegal in Zimbabwe but authorities appear to be losing the war against the oldest profession that has attracted hundreds of thousands of young women.

Manyika inciting violence

MUTARE – President Mugabe’s Zanu PF party has embarked on a campaign reminiscent of that launched during the run up to the Rwandan genocide in 1994 as it desperately tries to hang on to power on June 27.
Senior Zanu PF leaders are inciting their party supporters, in pre-Rwandan genocide style, to be on the lookout of opposition supporters within their communities.
Leaders and supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are being denounced and labeled “sellouts and “traitors”.
Eliot Manyika, the Zanu PF secretary for the commissariat, told villagers at Chinyauhwera Business Centre, 22miles south of Mutare City that their party supporters should be on the lookout for “sellouts” and “traitors” who wanted to give back the country to former colonizer, Britain.
Manyika is in charge of the Zanu PF sub-committee for mobilization.
"You should be on the lookout for traitors,” Manyika said. “They are among us. We have enemies all around us".
Hours after Manyika’s rally Zanu F supporters and a group of men in army uniforms moved from homestead to homestead in Chigodora and Chitakatira villages attacking MDC activists and burning their houses.
About six top activists in the villages were taken to hospital in Mutare after sustaining serious injuries. Some of the affected were only identified as Mwedzi and Mutsoto.
About three teachers at Matika Primary School were also forced to flee their station after they were threatened by Zanu PF activists. The teachers participated in a voter education campaign during the run-up to the March 29 polls. They were confronted by Zanu PF activists led by a woman identified only as Mrs Mangirazi and accused to misleading villagers to vote for the MDC. The teachers are now staying in Mutare.
Chigodora, Chitakatira and Matika villages are in Mutare South which was won by a Zanu PF candidate, Fred Kanzama.
Manyika’s calls at Chinyauhwera Business Centre for Zanu PF to be the lookout for so called sellouts and traitors is similar to how former leaders in Rwanda incited ethnic tension in the tiny and impoverished central African country during the run – up to the 1994 genocide which left about one million Rwandans dead.
The campaign was targeted at the minority Tutsis and the politically moderate Hutus, from the majority ethnic group. However, several former leaders who encouraged and incited ethnic tension in Rwanda have been convicted for crimes against humanity by an international tribunal sitting in Arusha, Tanzania. Others are still being tried.
Manyika said villagers should be on the lookout for MDC supporters because the MDC was being used by whites to "re-colonise" Zimbabwe.
"The whites found out that Tsvangirai is a willing tool and are using him to re-colonise the country. Now that we have our independence, we are forgetting what we went through during the armed colonial era and today some are saying we want Tsvangirai who wants to return the country to the whites."
"Tsvangirai ran away during the liberation struggle and today the whites are using him to cause confusion in the country."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Teachers arrested in Chipinge

CHIPINGE – Twenty –three teachers have been arrested here for allegedly prejudicing Robert Mugabe of an undisclosed number of votes in Chipinge Central during the March 29 elections.
The teachers were working for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) during the controversial polls which the MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai won 47 percent of the vote beating the incumbent, Mugabe who managed 42 percent. The MDC claims it won a bigger percentage.
They were presiding officers at polling stations in the constituency.
The teachers appeared in court today (Wednesday) and were each granted ZW$100 million bail by magistrate Samuel Zuze.
They were arrested last week but were taken to court today (Wednesday).
Chipinge lawyer Langton Mhungu successfully applied for their release on bail.
The electoral officials are alleged to have worked in cohorts with opposition forces during the poll to discount votes cast for Mugabe so as to deny him victory.
They deny the charges.
After the 29 March polls police launched a systematic campaign of arresting polling officials accusing them of conniving with the opposition MDC, Western powers and non-governmental organizations to ensure a Tsvangirai victory.
This is, however, seen as a smokescreen by the ageing Zanu PF leader to divert attention and mislead the world.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Diamond miner shot dead

MUTARE – Police officers manning the Chiadzwa diamond fields have killed a suspected illegal diamond miner.
Tonderai Kanyenze was shot dead after two police officers opened fire at him while he was in the diamond fields.
Police have confirmed the incident saying Kanyenze was part of a group of 200 people that invaded the diamond fields armed with iron bars, hoes and other digging tools.
Police spokesman, Brian Makomeke, said police officers first shot into the air to disperse the illegal miners but this did not scare them.
Makomeke said the police then opened fire and killed Kanyenze in the process.
The police spokesperson said the Chiadzwa diamond fields were a no go area.
The shooting of Kanyenze, whose age could not be immediately ascertained, come in the wake of an upsurge in the number of illegal panners invading the diamond fields and corrupt activities involving police officers.
Security details manning the fields have been accused of working in cohorts with illegal miners and buyers in Chiadzwa.
It is alleged that the police allow panners into the fields for a fee. The fee can be as much as US$200.