Skip to comments.ZIMBABWE: Police deny report of politically-motivated rapes
Posted on 08/28/2002 4:08:59 AM PDT by Clive
JOHANNESBURG, 27 Aug 2002 (IRIN) - The Zimbabwe police on Tuesday denied press reports of a deliberate campaign of rape by ruling party militia against women suspected of supporting the opposition.
A leading British newspaper alleged on Sunday that women and girls were being raped and beaten by ruling party thugs because they did not support President Robert Mugabe.
The report quoted one young girl as saying that her mother and younger sisters were forced to chant praises to Mugabe while she was gang-raped.
She said her attackers told her the assault was punishment for those who "wanted to sell this country to [UK Prime Minister] Tony Blair and the whites".
Frances Lovemore, the medical director of the Amani Trust, an NGO which helps victims of torture, told IRIN that her organisation had interviewed a number of people who said they were victims of politically-motivated rape. They alleged they had been targeted because of their political affiliations, or their husbands', and were called "Tsvangirai's whores", Lovemore said.
Morgan Tsvangirai is leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The women usually only told of the rape on the third or fourth visit to the Amani Trust. Lovemore said the attacks took place around the country and named Masvingo, Buhera, Marondera, Mashonaland and Mt Darwin as some of the areas where rapes had occurred.
"There are reports of women being taken to camps and raped, and men being forced to witness sexual violence," she said. "It is very difficult to quantify how many women are affected. Rape is universally under-reported because of the stigma, but some women say they know of other women who it has happened to. Rape is a well-recognised form of torturing and terrorising a community," she said.
Lovemore said that although the cases were reported to the police, "nothing really happened". But, "we believe that if a docket is opened, there will eventually be some justice, even if it's five years down the road."
However, police Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena denied women were being raped as part of a political campaign.
"Politics is never a reason for rape. I have come across murder, assault and public disturbances that are politically motivated, but never politically-motivated rape.
"The newspaper article doesn't help us identify the individual or the victim of the alleged rapes. It's also significant that the article is timed to coincide with the Earth summit [World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg] and I think it's cheap propaganda. A similar thing happened during the Commonwealth summit in Brisbane."
He said the media allegations had not given names and places for the police to verify, and neither had human rights NGOs. He "challenged" Amani and other organisations to provide police with details so that they could investigate the allegations.
"Amani doesn't go to the extent of verifying whether the story is accurate or not and that is their handicap, and that of other NGOs," he said.
"It's not only rape, we have read articles about murders which have never occurred," said Bvudzijena, referring to a recent court appearance of journalists in connection with an inaccurate report on the beheading of the wife of an MDC supporter.
Lovemore said that although the Amani Trust did not have the resources to travel to the "scene of the crime" to verify information, the women who went to the organisation for help had three separate initial consultations with a forensic nurse, a medical doctor and a counsellor and told the same story to all three people. Afterwards they spoke to a lawyer and were always referred to the police to make a report and open a docket.
Lovemore said the police sometimes refused to open a docket if they felt the crime was political. However, she added that she could provide the police with docket numbers, on request, if they needed to verify reports.
Lovemore also said the Amani Trust was completing a video of rape survivors relating their ordeals, which would be released to the media within the next two weeks.
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