A leader of one of the top teachers’ unions is recovering in a Zimbabwean hospital following his abduction on Wednesday by suspected state security agents, who assaulted and dumped him outside a military base near the country’s capital, Harare.
Obert Masaraure, president of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) claims that the assailants, wearing black masks and armed with AK47 rifles and pistols, forcibly grabbed him from his Waterfalls home and shoved him in an unregistered vehicle and drove off at high speed to a bushy area near Manyame Airbase.
“… They assaulted me using some sjamboks. They forced me to strip and when I did that they assaulted me all over the body and then they forced me to roll in mud. They left me in the bush seriously injured.
“I had to find my way home, thanks to a well-wisher who gave me clothes and coffee. Without that I wouldn’t have made it home as I was bleeding, I could not walk home and I had no money … They took my shoes, my wallet, everything. I had nothing.”
Masaraure said he was unable to identify his assailants as it was dark. “I couldn’t see the faces but some of the guys might be some of the people who abducted me in January, so they came back again.”
He has been leading a three-day industrial action by teachers demanding better pay and improved conditions of service. “They were accusing me of inciting teachers to withdraw their labor … I told them that we are demanding a living wage from our employee.”
Masarure said the suspected state security agents claimed that he was among people who wanted to remove President Emmerson Mnangagwa from power unconstitutionally.
“They couldn’t listen to that saying we are colluding to overthrow the president which is utter nonsense because the employer has a duty to deliver.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi was not available for comment as he was not responding to calls on his mobile phone.
According to former Tsholotsho Senator Believe Gaule, who strongly backs President Mnangagwa, state security agents should investigate the case “as I’m not in a position to say exactly what happened to Masaraure.”
Gaule claimed that some non-governmental organizations are capable of staging such abductions in order to discredit Mnangagwa’s government.
“I don’t see any reason why someone who is pushing an agenda for demonstrations should be arrested. What for? I see no good reason why that can be done by the new dispensation. So, I think state security agents cannot do that (abduction).
“It should be made clear that anyone can come in and portray a very bad picture, especially those that one to tarnish the image of our government can do anything in the name of these abductions that are going on … To me its sabotage.”
The Movement for Democratic Change led by Nelson Chamisa condemned the abduction and brutalising of the ARTUZ leader.
In a statement, the MDC said, “A State which perpetrates violence on men and women who stayed behind to serve the education system even when most teachers were leaving the country is shameless and ungrateful. All they demand and rightfully so, is a living wage indexed in US dollars, better working conditions, reasonable teacher-student ratio and suitable facilities for the learners. That is not criminal.
“Masaraure has committed no crime, he is a patriot who is demanding better public delivery of education services. It is clear that he is being targeted for his dissenting views.”
USA Zanu PF chairperson, Frenk Guni, said, “We condemn the barbaric torture and abduction of of the ATUZ president Mr. Masaraure in the strongest terms. The state must leave no stone unturned in hunting the culprits by any means necessary and bring them to book! This is unacceptable and unpardonable in the new Zimbabwe! Whomever was involved are not only saboteurs and terrorists but an eminent threat to the national security of Zimbabwe as a whole and must be treated as such! Such banditry cannot be allowed in the second republic.”
Several civil society leaders are languishing in remand prison following their arrest two weeks ago on charges of attempting to topple President Mnangagwa. They were arrested when they landed at Robert Mugabe International Airport after attending a workshop on non-violent protests in the Maldives.