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US$12 000 compensation can’t soothe activist for unjustified imprisonment



AT the age of 28, Linda Musiyamhanje was charged with the murder of a police officer and spent almost a year in prison.


She left her two-year-old son in the care of her siblings and together with 28 other individuals became known as the Glen View 29, a group of MDC activists who were accused of killing police Inspector Petros Mutedza during a scuffle with law enforcement officers.

Musiyamhanje was arrested in June 2011 and spent 11 months in prison before being acquitted in 2013.

The High Court last week ordered Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe and Commissioner-General of Zimbabwe Republic Police Godwin Matanga (pictured) to pay Musiyamhanje
US$12 000 as damages for violation of her fundamental rights when she was unlawfully arrested, detained and prosecuted 10 years ago.

For the past six years, she has been fighting for justice and compensation from the state for wrongful arrest, detention and prosecution.

She says it has not been a walk in the park, but she soldiered on.

“I’m numb at the moment, I am happy though, but I can’t say I am very happy because the case took longer than I had anticipated and the amount I was given cannot turn back the hands of time because I lost so many opportunities in life,” Musiyamhanje said.

“Be it marital status, education wise, business wise, to mention but a few. But I am grateful that at least I was compensated something. And I would like to give credit to my lawyer Jeremiah Bamu. He stood by me through thick and thin, even before I was acquitted. He was our lawyer as a group and would visit us regularly and check on us. And also thanks to the Lawyers for Human Rights for their unwavering support. I hope other people will be able to be helped.”

She said her innocence propelled her to sue for damages, as well as the pain that she had endured while in prison, and separated from her two-year-old son.

“At the time I was arrested, I had a two-year-old son and I left him for almost a year. I didn’t show him that motherly love. When they used to visit me in prison I would only see him through the fence, no touching, no what. My siblings also endured a lot of pain when they visited me almost every day. They used to come to court everyday until the day I was proven not guilty.

“Ever since I came out of prison, I had to restart building my life, so having this kind of money is an addition to something that I had already built and it will help me expand and grow and build something bigger. I never felt like giving up because I was so much determined and also my lawyer was very determined that we will win the case, and we did,” she said.

The last two of the 29 who were arrested in 2011, Tungamirai Madzokere and Last Maengahama, were freed in June this year after spending 10 years in prison.

They are contemplating suing for compensation.

Masiyamhanje said her experience has made her courageous and alive to the importance of hard work.

“This experience has changed me as a person. I used to think that everyone in jail was a criminal, but my experience changed those beliefs. I now understand that some might be innocent but lack funds to get legal representation. Sometimes it is just fear (that stops them from fighting for justice) and sometimes it is fear that is instilled in them by relatives, and lack of support from relatives. On some occasions they will only be inspired to fight after sharing with others in prison,” she said.

“I have also realised that if you have that courage you will prevail. It helped me to be courageous and independent. Society judges people, and considering the nature of our charges, we were labelled. People will say ‘she is said to have murdered someone’. People judge you. This experience taught me to work hard.”

Throughout the journey, Masiyemhanje said she got a lot of support from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the MDC party that was led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, her family, sisters, the church and friends from the diaspora.

“Everyone played a pivotal role, including my fellow inmates, we used to encourage each other to be strong. Not forgetting Mai Tsvangirai, as a mother she played her part and my son, who was my pillar of strength and each and every time he would say ‘mom, mom’, it gave me hope that we would reunite,” she said.

Her lawyer Bamu said the victory remained hollow until payment is effected to her.
“The government is notorious for not paying on time and processing paying only after contempt proceedings have been initiated,” Bamu said. 

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