LAWYERS representing detained trade union and opposition activists say their clients were viciously assaulted by police while in detention with several sustaining broken bones and other injuries.
Armed police swooped on the Zimbabwe Congress
of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leadership on Wednesday as they prepared to march to present a petition to the Finance minister and the offices of the Employers Confederation of Zimbabwe.
Thirty-four people were arrested in Harare alone with 15 detained at Matapi police station in Mbare while the remainder were taken to Harare Central.
Lawyers representing those arrested said what they saw at Matapi police station shocked them.
Lawyer Alec Muchadehama of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said it was evident his clients had been attacked by police.
“From the look of it they were attacked by the police as soon as they were herded into cells,” Muchadehama said.
“Some have broken limbs. The attacks appeared sadistic because some of the people cannot get up on their own. We have been grappling with the police to get them released so that they can receive immediate medical attention since Wednesday but the police have been dilly-dallying. We believe this is out of fear that releasing them will expose their brutality,” Muchadehama said.
Late last night Muchadehama said those detained at Matapi police station had been transferred to Harare Central.
“We have reached a compromise that they be taken to hospital, but they will be under police guard,” the lawyer said.
“We hope they will appear in court tomorrow (today).”
Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change said it was appalled by the extent of the physical assaults on their supporters while in police custody.
“The police have engaged in a flagrant violation of the rights of those arrested,” a statement by the party secretary-general, Tendai Biti said.
“They were called two at a time into a cell at Matapi police station where five state security agents brutally assaulted them. They are in a sorry state. It was a brutal assault,” Biti said.
Lawyers who visited the detained said Lucia Matibenga, the ZCTUvice-president and MDC women’s assembly chairperson, was badly assaulted with batons and sustained a fractured arm. They said she was bleeding through the ears.
They said Matibenga was having difficulty in hearing and breathing while Wellington Chibebe, the ZCTU secretary-general, sustained a suspected fracture and a visible crack to the head.
ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo was suspected to have fractured both arms. The lawyers said he was immobilised with pain from the brutal assault and needed urgent medical attention.
Others in need of urgent medical attention included Ian Makone (MDC national executive member), Moses Ngondo (activist), Toendepi Shonhe (MDC deputy organising secretary), Dennis Chiwara (activist), Tererai Todini (youth chairperson, MDC Mbare district), Tonderai Nyahunzvi (activist), Tichaona Basket, Stephen Mutasa Mutsipa, James Gumbi, Nqobizitha Khumalo, and Rwapedza Chigwengwa.
Biti said the whereabouts of MDC national executive members Grace Kwinje and Kerry Kay remained unknown, although they were last seen at Harare central police station.
He bemoaned the situation of those injured saying lives could be lost if no urgent medical attention was provided.
“As if that is not enough, there are clearly no moves to take those arrested to the remand court.”
The lawyers have since filed an urgent application in the courts seeking access to their clients, medical help and an order to have their clients placed on remand. “We are hopeful the application will be heard,” Biti said late yesterday.