A High Court judge has ruled that Jestina Mukoko has the right to sue former State Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, Brigadier General Asher Walter Tapfumaneyi, and Zimbabwe Republic Police’s Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi in their personal capacities following her abduction and torture in 2008.
According to Mukoko, Justice Nyaradzo Munangati-Manongwa made the ruling on Monday following strong resistance from the respondents, cited by the human rights activist in a $220,000 lawsuit.
Mukoko is represented by lawyer Beatrice Mutetwa.
Lawyers from the Attorney General’s Civil Division Office, who are representing Mutasa, who is now one of the leaders of the opposition Zimbabwe People First party, Brigadier Tapfumaneyi and Chief Superintendent Magwenzi had objected in having their clients cited in their personal capacity.
They wanted them to be cited only in their official capacity.
The lawyers argued that the trio should not have been cited as respondents in their personal capacity as they were acting in their official capacity.
However, Mukoko through her lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) opposed the State’s application and argued that no one is employed in his or her official capacity to commit heinous crimes such as torture and therefore Mutasa, Tapfumaneyi and Magwenzi could not have been acting in their official capacity when they violated Mukoko’s fundamental rights.
Mukoko was abducted from her Norton home and held incommunicado for almost one month in December 2008. During the period that she was in incommunicado detention, Mukoko, the director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project, which monitors and documents human rights violations, was repeatedly tortured by being assaulted, being forced to kneel on sharp gravel and subjected to psychological torture.
She was also deprived access to lawyers and was only delivered to the police “blindfolded” on December 22, 2008, after vigorous campaigns by her family, and civil society groups such as ZLHR, where she was then slapped with criminal charges of plotting to unseat President Robert Mugabe’s government.
In 2009, the human rights campaigner filed a $220 000 lawsuit against four cabinet ministers including Mutasa, who at the time of her abduction served as State Security, Lands and Land Reform Minister, Co-Ministers of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi and Giles Mutsekwa, Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Chief Superintendent Magwenzi of the ZRP Serious Frauds Squad, Attorney General of Zimbabwe and Brigadier Tapfumaneyi for damages she suffered after she was abducted and held incommunicado and tortured for three weeks at various locations by state security agents.
This was after the Supreme Court in September 2009 granted a stay of prosecution on charges of banditry and terrorism which she faced after ruling that several of her fundamental rights were violated when she was abducted, tortured and held incommunicado.
Mutasa, who was fired from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party in 2015 and now serves as one of the leaders of Zimbabwe People First party, defended the actions of the abductors and refused to divulge their identities, indicating that they had abducted Mukoko in fulfilment of their national duties.
In a related development, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) says it is disappointed about the demolition of homes by police in Mazowe reportedly at the instigation of the First Lady Grace Mugabe.
“The demolitions and evictions targeting 143 families that are currently happening at Arnold Farm in Mazowe in the rain constitute a gross deprivation of the families, including children, of their shelter and a serious disruption of their lives.
“It is worrying that about 83 homes have already been destroyed meaning that hundreds of people have been internally displaced.”
In 2015, about 700 people were evicted in the same area under similar circumstances allegedly at the instigation of the First Lady.
ZimRights considers the pulling down of poor people’s homes without providing alternative accommodation in the rain, which has caused a big number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Mazowe, as being a gross human rights violation.
VIOLATION OF CONSTITUTION
“It is even more disturbing that this is not the first time that mass evictions of people in Mazowe have happened at the alleged instigation of the First Lady apparently without a court order as required by the Constitution in Section 74.
“ZimRights calls for the mass removals in Mazowe to stop as long as immediate alternative and sustainable shelter has not been provided for the families. If a court order has not been given, the First Lady should submit herself to the law and seek the court clearance first, in order to guarantee the constitutional freedom of the families from arbitrary eviction.”
ZimRights said it is also important that poor people, especially those living at the farms, must have equal access to land as the amassing of land by a few people endangers the principles of social and economic justice.
There was no immediate reaction from Mrs. Mugabe.