Time to Act on Mugabe’s Rapists

NOW DAILY EDITORIAL|

Taurai Chamboko was abducted by Zanu PF militia from her home in Muzarabani, Mashonaland Central in May 2008. She was taken to their base at Mhene shops.
“She was assaulted severely, then they took turns to rape her. She never got any medical help and she continued bleeding until she passed away in June 2008,” according to the MDC dossier, Footprints of Abuse.
In another incident, Robert Mugabe’s militias attacked 70 year-old Irene Runzirwai of Harare.
“She died in hospital in Harare from injuries sustained after she had been assaulted and raped and thrown into a big fire. She sustained 30 percent burns,” according to the MDC dossier.
Who would rape a 70 year old, while at the same time torturing her and eventually throwing her into a fire?
The Mugabe regime has been cited for rape and gross violation of women’s rights, especially around election times or other periods of turbulence.
When Mugabe deployed his notorious 5th Brigade, a.k.a Gukurahundi to flush out Ndebeles and Zapu supporters in Matabeleland and Midlands provinces in the 1980s, heinous crimes were commited. Women were abducted and raped by Mugabe’s soldiers. Those who fell pregnant or got ill from the torture were murdered by known assailants. In one bizarre case, a Gukurahundi soldier used a bayonet to rip open the stomarch of a woman he had impregnated as punishment.These are not isolated incidences. These are atrocities planned and committed by trained army-based militia commanders out to derive maximum shock value from such horrific acts. The purpose is to cow the entire population into voting for Mugabe or to be silent when he rigs elections, as he has done over the last 34 years of his unbridled dictatorship.
According to the United Nations, rape and sexual violence are used as a tactic of war. “Sexual violence in conflict is used to dehumanize and humiliate,” the UN says.
Last week, 150 government ministers from around the world gathered in London at the invitation of the UK government under the theme #TimeToAct -Sexual Violence In Conflict. Typically, Zimbabwe was not represented. It would have been too embarassing for the Mugabe regime to hear all that condemnation of state-sanctioned sexual violators. But that did not stop the country’s controversial first lady, Grace Mugabe, from adding her two cents to the conversation. She told a meeting in Chinhoyi that rapists should be summarily beheaded.
We find it ironic that Grace Mugabe can stand up in public and offer her own brand of wild justice as a solution. Proposing murder where genuine solutions need to be found demonstrates warped logic.
The reason why rape is proliferating in Zimbabwe is that perpetrators are protected and shielded from justice by Mugabe and his regime.
The perpetrators of the 2008 sexual attacks are well-known. The problem is, they can not be brought to justice in the country. This is why 250 rape victims from that period have had to report their cases to the South African Police Service (SAPS), which showed indifference until a court ordered them to act in 2013. By then victims and witnesses had disappeared and some had died from the brutality they endured. Partisanship and
corruption in Zimbabwe’s law enforcement and justice system have prevented many from even reporting conflict-driven rape in the country.
Even during periods of relative peace, women are still vulnerable to Zanu PF’s predators. Human trafficking is rampant and thousands of women are kept as sex slaves on farms seized violently from their white owners or at closed religious shrines controlled by the Mugabe militias.
So, whatever claims the Harare regime makes about ending sexual violence, these are just hollow words.
Mugabe has hurriedly signed into force a law aimed ostensibly at ending human trafficking. The purpose is not to end trafficking. More, it is to comply with UN requirements under the so-called Palermo Protocol.
Rape has been used by Zanu PF as an instrument of terror and coercion since the 1970s when they waged a guerilla war. Many present female leaders in Mugabe’s party, including vice president Joice Mujuru and senator Monica Mutsvangwa, were raped by their commanders during the 1970s civil war. Many were not treated and still exhibit symptoms of trauma: violence, aggressive behaviour and a reckless, suicidal attitude to life. Grace herself was sexually exploited by her now-husband Mugabe. She was forced to have sex with him while she was his married secretary.
The problem of rape and sexual abuse during conflict periods in Zimbabwe will not go away until there is support for victims from outside. The proposal by U.S. secretary of state John Kerry to bar sex offenders from American soil is very welcome. We urge Washington to start looking closely at the sexual violence records of Mugabe’s officials every time they apply for U.S. visas. Such new scrutiny will make regime members think twice before they deploy militants to rape women. (c) NOW DAILY 2014.

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