One of the most difficult and challenging periods of my life for which I still receive professional assistance for secondary trauma was supervising the electoral challenges to the 2000 parliamentary elections.
I had been assigned to lead the election petitions by David Coltart whom I deputised as the chairperson of the legal committee/secretary. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) filed 37 constituencies of the outcome of the June 2000 parliamentary elections.
Assisted by a team of competent and dedicated lawyers I marshalled the evidence collection for these petitions. The team I worked with included such luminary legal minds such as included the indomitable Beatrice Mtetwa, Innocent Chagonda, Sheila Jarvis, Kevin Laue, Irene Petra, Brian Kagoro, my fellow partners at Winterons law firm Andrew Mugandiwa, and Thembi Magwaliba (Thembi you will recall was on the other side in the last electoral petition) Among the results challenged were the Gutu North constituency, the declared winner was Vice-President Simon Muzenda; Buhera North, where MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai had been unsuccessful against his cousin and former Manicaland governor Kenneth Manyonda; Bindura constituency, which had been “won” by Border Gezi; Chinhoyi, “won” by the Phillip Chiyangwa; Mazowe East, held by Chen Chimutengwende; Mazowe West, “won” new Deputy Finance Minister Chris Kuruneri , Murehwa North, “won” by Victor Chitongo and “won” by Joel Biggie Matiza.
The MDC broadly challenged the results on the basis that there had been illegal practices extensively in Murehwa South which led to widespread political violence. The MDC candidate was Ward Nezi. Andrew Mugandiwa had conduct of the Nezi election and he instructed the then Advocate Happias Zhou.
With the assistance of several NGOs including The Amani Trust we collated documentary evidence of instances of political violence. Some of the breaches and instances of violence mentioned in our petition had been reported in various Amani Trust and Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum reports which are still publicly available.
- . On 15 April 2000, MDC activist David Stevens was abducted from his farm by war veterans and ZANU (PF) supporters. Three of his colleagues—John Osborne, Stephanus Krynauw and Gary Luke—reported his abduction to the police at the Murehwa police station. The police, however, refused to intervene. While they were at the police station, the group of ZANU (PF) supporters and war veterans arrived and dragged Osborne, Krynauw and Luke out of the police station and into the vehicle in which Stevens was being held. They were then handcuffed, interrogated about their involvement in the MDC, severely assaulted, and driven in the vehicle out of town. Stevens then shook hands with Osborne, told him that he had been a good friend and that it had been a good life. One of the ZANU (PF) supporters then pulled out a shotgun and proceeded to shoot Stevens twice at close range, killing Stevens. 2. In addition, Nhamo Gwaze—the MDC youth chairman for Tayengwa—died at Parirenyatwa Hospital on 27 May 2000 from injuries sustained during a fatal assault by ZANU (PF) supporters.).
- CL.B. (Female) May 2000 Zanu (PF) supporters tortured her with sticks and open hands. She sustained a deep cut on her face and is being treated at Marondera Hospital. They included J.B. Matiza and Chakawarika.
- C.M. (Female) 30 April 2000 I am the MDC organising secretary in Chigogodza District in Murehwa. My husband is the chairman and the one who was spearheading the MDC campaign in most areas of Murehwa. Towards the end of April, we received strange visitors who demanded to know our party affiliation and why we were campaigning for the MDC. These people were incited to do this by the Zanu (PF) candidate for Murehwa South, Joel Matiza, Cllr. Jonasi and Cllr. George Nadzo. They came on several occasions, but I managed to flee. When they were tired of looking for my husband and me they burnt one of the buildings to our home that housed our harvest. A rally was called, and they demanded to see my husband and me, but we managed to escape.
- On 10 April,2000, a group of people came to my house around 2:00 am. They were accusing me of being an MDC chairperson who was giving problems. I was beaten with rubber sticks all over the body. My head swelled. I must have fainted for about four hours. I was denied treatment by the war vets and Zanu (PF) youths at the clinic. I had to go back home and come later. I bled through the ear and nose. Now I suffer from a persistent headache on an off and a pain in the right arm. My home was burnt down, and my mother was beaten. The ones who did it are from Musami township. They are based at the Zanu (PF) office near St. Paul’s mission. They are not locals. They are from Murehwa south constituencies, but they just avoid their own areas. There are around 200 of them loitering at the office. They go and get people at night. They are operating in the whole constituency. The local Zanu (PF) MP, J B Matiza is the one who is feeding them and his agent Jonas, who is their leader, mans the office. The CIO are very involved in the violence.
The matter was listed for the first hearing two years later on 25 February 2002, a couple of weeks after the violent 2002 Presidential elections in which we filed yet another election petition. For 2 years the high court had not listed the matter, choosing to list it after the holding of a Presidential election in which it was widely reported that MDC supporters were being targeted.
The Petitioner attended the hearing, but the witnesses did not show up. The matter was postponed for 3 weeks and once again the witnesses did not attend and neither did the Petitioner. It would turn out that both the Petitioner and his witnesses had been so traumatised by the events of the Presidential election that the Petitioner had found himself without his witnesses who just could not risk coming forward to give evidence and draw the ire and adverse interest of local Zanu-pf activists and Border Gezi Youth militia.
It is pertinent to ask why I am dredging the events of almost 2 decades ago. Well, the reason is because over the last few days we have been ordered into “command” mourning and “empathy” by various Zanu-pf orifices. Some have even wagged an accusing figure conjuring up “your faith” and suggesting that we are failing to walk the talk. In this social media interaction, the apophthegm Proverbs 11:10 was hurled back and forth… “When the righteous prosper, the whole city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”
Others appealed to those interacting on social media to remember not to speak ill of the dead aper our Shona axiom; Wafa Wanaka. Others responded that a man’s deeds (good and bad) inevitably follow him beyond the grave and that the wicked shall know no rest Revelations 14:11-13.
This engagement brought me back to this interaction I had with JB Matiza known to many as Engineer Matiza. A man celebrated by many to be professional man, an architect by training I believe. However, also a man about mentioned directly by victims of political violence which included indescribable sexual assaults against the wives, daughters of and members of the MDC.
Some of these incidents were so gruesome and horrible that even though I was not the primary victim of the traumatic event I have and still undergo secondary trauma counselling. This is true of a large number of “national heroes” interred at the Heroes Hectare. Some participated directly such as Border Gezi and Elliot Manyika. Others commanded divisions of the army that propped up Mugabe such as the alleged teenaged Zipra SB Moyo.
Going back to the subject of “command” empathy and the so called hunhu hwedu hweku chema nevanochema; (our custom of mourning with and comforting the bereaved) I respond that we cannot be expected to: undergo forced metamorphosis of unbridled sympathy for our torturers extending them unbridled ubuntu.
Yes; judgement is the Lord’s preserve and by the same measure it is not our duty to sanitise their records and cleanse their past records of torture. As their families mourn their children must be told, Yes your Father was a participant in conflict diamonds under a Zimbabwean government military operation COSLEG P/L by which many children lost their fathers and are now orphans, yes your Father enabled the rape, torture and murder of MDC men and women in Mashonaland East and by that means held on to his parliamentary seat from 1999 until his death.
Psalm 62:12: And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, For You recompense a man according to his work.
Yvonne Mahlunge-Gwashawanhu – is a lawyer and founding Member of the MDC.