People wait in a queue for cooking gas at a garage in the capital Harare, Wednesday, Jan, 23, 2019. The Southern African nation remained tense as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s call for national dialogue is met with skepticism, and reports of abuses by security forces continued. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Zimbabwe’s violent crackdown continues with reports of rapes

Fearful residents in the capital, Harare, and second city, Bulawayo, are locking themselves in at night

A violent crackdown continued Friday in Zimbabwe as rights groups alleged that women had been raped during house-to-house searches, while the government criticized a report by its own rights commission that said security forces had used “systematic torture.”

Zimbabweans say abuses have not calmed since President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday denounced the violence as “unacceptable.” The unrest began last week as people protested a steep increase in fuel prices that made gasoline the world’s most expensive. The government accuses the opposition of stirring up trouble.

The army asserts that uniformed perpetrators of abuses are “bogus elements” out to tarnish its image.

Fearful residents in poor and working-class suburbs of the capital, Harare, and second city, Bulawayo, are locking themselves in at night. At least 12 people have been killed in the unrest and more than 300 wounded, scores with gunshot wounds, doctors and rights workers have said.

“We have received very disturbing reports of a number of cases of women allegedly raped by members of security forces,” said Dewa Mavhinga, southern Africa director for Human Rights Watch. He added: “Beatings, harassment and other abuses have continued after Mnangagwa’s return and there are no clear actions from the government to hold accountable those committing the abuses.”

Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she had not received any reports of rape.

Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said a critical report earlier this week by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, a constitutional body, was not based on “thorough investigation” and did not cover the “two most anarchical days” of last week’s unrest.

Those with complaints should report them to the police or to military police, he said.

Meanwhile, vendors in the city centre were being routinely rounded up by the military, beaten and dumped at police stations, human rights lawyer Doug Coltart said.

Dozens of civil society leaders, opposition figures and activists have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives, Amnesty International said in a statement. It noted reported rapes, “lethal force” against protesters and the targeting of health workers who treat victims.

“Children as young as 11 years old have been detained on frivolous charges,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s southern Africa director. “The authorities must immediately stop this merciless crackdown.”

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said arrests of suspected protesters continued, with many denied bail.

On Friday the High Court in Harare said it would rule on Tuesday on an application by well-known activist and pastor Evan Mawarire to be released on bail. He has been held for a week and is charged with subversion, which carries a 20-year prison sentence. He is accused of inciting the unrest online. His lawyer rejects the allegations.

Farai Mutsaka, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

LETTER: Harrison should reconsider paving boat launch

Letter writer Ed Wood shares his concerns about stormwater runoff from the new pavement

LETTER: Fisheries letter invites colonized misinformation

Leah Ballantyne writes to share her disappointment in a recent letter to the Observer

VIDEO: Ride to Conquer Cancer rolls into Hope

Thousands of cyclist descend on small town for annual cancer fundraiser

Sts’ailes invites adults to become engaged in Halq’eméylem with new video series

‘Qw’oqwel te Qw’oqwel’ gives language learners an immersive way to learn Halq’eméylem

B.C. VIEWS: Pipelines set to roll as federal politicians posture

Projects to drive B.C., Canadian economy in years ahead

B.C. Lions fall to 1-9 after 13-10 loss to Ticats

Lowly Leos have dropped six straight CFL contests

VIDEO: B.C. woman meets biological mother, 38 years later

Mother never gave up hope of finding daughter, despite all the obstacles

B.C. man who died after rescuing swimmer was known for helping others

Shaun Nugent described as a dad, a coach, a hero and ‘stand-up guy’ at celebration of life

B.C. RCMP plane chases fleeing helicopter as part of major cross-border drug bust

The helicopter eventually landed at a rural property near Chilliwack

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Most Read