Beaten with an Iron Bar

So much is going on right now that it is difficult to keep track. But for me one incident stands out in the past two days - the fact that whilst in Police custody and under Police 'protection' one of our most able activists. Grace Kwinjeh, a single mom who is very active in the field of women's rights, was severely beaten and at one stage a policeman took an iron bar to her head. She now has head injuries and has lost part of her ear.

Now an iron bar is not a weapon of interrogation, or intimidation, it is a murder weapon, nothing less. When you pick up an iron bar and move to strike someone on the head with it - your intention is to kill not maim.

Grace is a very determined and outspoken woman - but she is also an active Christian and young. I cannot think of anything she might have said or done to justify such an act.

Then you have to look at the case of Morgan Tsvangirai - he was not even arrested on the street. He and his PA went to the Machapisa Police Station to ask what was happening to others who had been arrested in the prayer march that morning. Both of them were then arrested and both have been beaten.

Morgan is 55 (birthday the day before), a quiet family man who is devoted to his wife and children. I have never seen him, in 10 years, ever lose his temper or even get angry. He has a calm temperament and this could not have been more evident than the weekend before when he found himself barred from entering the City Hall in Bulawayo where he was scheduled to speak to local residents. He remonstrated with the Police details on duty, then turned to the many hundreds of people on the street and said they should disburse and not cause any trouble. We outnumbered the police by a 100 to 1. We could easily have taken them on - water cannon or not.

But this time he was not on the street; he was in a Police cell and in their hands. No crime committed, no charges laid, no violence at all at that stage of the game. Just pure vindictive hatred of a man who has stood for justice, human and political rights and freedoms for most of his life. The only man in fact who offers any chance of an exit out of this Zanu led morass. This time they outnumbered him and the crowds, which normally follow him, were locked out.

What did they do with the opportunity? Talk about the way forward? Talk about the state of the economy and how difficult things were for themselves and their families?

No they just beat him until he fell unconscious on the floor, they did that three times and in the process they battered his body and his head so that when his wife went to see him, he could not see properly, could not feed himself and was almost unrecognizable.

They did that despite the fact that they knew the whole world was watching - we have been headlined on the CNN, NBC, Sky and BBC for almost 48 hours now. They did that despite the fact that everyone knows we are close to the time when Zanu PF will have no choice to speak to this man they were beating. What was the intention? They know he will not bend or go back on his mission. They know that what they did will inflame the people even more outside those Police cell walls. Do they want anarchy so they can impose marshal law and abandon any pretext of government by consent of the people? You must answer those questions because I cannot.

What I do know is that South Africa continues to behave in a totally inexplicable manner. First they ignored the story altogether and then when the storm of worldwide outrage grew, they reluctantly allowed some mention on the news. Even then the story was put together so badly I wondered just who was doing it - even today at 13.00 hours their coverage was appalling and badly put together - the faces of the presenters who are very professiona,l told another story all on its own.

So far President Mbeki has yet to say a word. No comment from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Just stony, inexplicable silence! Yet no country in the world has more responsibility for the situation here, no country in the world has more to lose. Still silence. Only Tony Leon commented that he also could not understand why the South African President remained silent why the crisis in Zimbabwe plummeted to new lows.

Maybe the guys in that Police cell with Morgan know that the end is in sight; that their privileges and special status are all under threat because of this man in the cell with them? Maybe they thought they would not be brought to justice and had total impunity. Maybe the senior political figures responsible for this sort of thing - Mutasa, Gotche and Moghadi had told them to go ahead - have fun and beat the daylights out of the man, that they would guarantee that there would be no investigation, no recriminations even - perhaps a hefty reward.

Well I have news for them - we are keeping a list and one day soon, there will be justice for all the victims of this regime. As I write the funeral of Gift Tandare is underway in Harare. Early this morning the Police/Army opened fire with live ammunition on a crowd of mourners at the house. They injured two young MDC members in the process. What is this about the use of live ammunition against defenseless, unarmed civilians? Are they crazy?

As for regional leaders - especially Mbeki, we hold them responsible for this situation. For 7 years they have sat on the sidelines and done little to defend the rights of ordinary Zimbabweans in the face of a tyranny every bit as evil as that which confronted the ANC in South Africa and the Zanu and Zapu movements in Rhodesian days. They have connived and protected that tyranny so that it felt it was immune to global pressure and could do what it wanted inside the country - and get away with it. They have left the ordinary people of Zimbabwe to suffer, their only recourse being flight to other countries.

Even now as we near the time when this Zanu PF led regime is about to collapse in a heap, there is evidence that they seek, not a democratic solution to our crisis, allowing the people here to determine who will take them out of this mess. But they work quietly (that is the meaning of 'quiet diplomacy') behind the scenes to engineer a 'reformed' Zanu government to take over from Mugabe, who even they, now see as being at the end of his tether.

Eddie Cross
Bulawayo, 13th March 2007