An account of a survivor of enforced disappearances
Zimbabwe has an infamous record of State-sponsored election-related violence since the country gained its independence in 1980. Systematic politically motivated violence increased drastically with the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999. To date, political activists have been subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment in the form of abductions, torture, assault and sexual assault (including rape). These heinous crimes have left thousands disabled, dead and traumatised.
Survivors of election-related violence suffer cyclical persecution with each election as they are usually targeted to set an example. The State has continuously failed to provide justice and to hold perpetrators accountable, rather, victims are labelled “regime change agents” by the State and the ruling party Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF).
One such survivor is the former Nyanga North MDC chairperson, Mr Sekai Gombe who still has fresh memories of the inhumane treatment he sustained in 2008 when he was abducted and tortured by ZANU-PF youths.
Gombe was abducted and tortured by ZANU-PF youths before being dumped in a nearby bush. In his own words, through an interview conducted on 15 September 2020, Gombe re-counts the incident with emotion.
“In 2008 I was abducted by ZANU PF youth who took me because of my activism. I was beaten, tortured and left for dead in a nearby bush called Nyazingwe were I was then found by random men who took me to nuns at Avila Mission Hospital,” he said.
Gombe said the abduction affected his social life as he was temporarily separated from his family at a time when they needed him the most.
“I am a married man and my wife had a three months old baby at that time and because I knew some of my abductors, it was traumatic for me and my family. It also affected my wife who had to flee to stay with a relative in Mozambique since she was afraid to continue staying at home facing the same people who abducted me,”he said.
From the hospital bed, Gombe had to flee to a safe house in Mutare where he stayed for a while before reuniting with his family in Nyanga.
For 12 years, Gombe has lived next door to the people who caused him so much pain, without any reparations or apology.
“When l went back home It was difficult to face the guys who wronged me. The other one who stays very close to my home was the one leading the abduction, he knew very well where my bedrooms is and had studied well how to break into my homestead,” he said.
Sadly, just like other victims of enforced disappearances, Gombe has never received any compensation from the government for the torture and physical harm he was subjected to. Gombe feels the government has not been sincere in taking action to compensate victims of enforced disappearances as he laments how his abductors walked scot-free.
“It was and is still my wish that those who wronged me face justice, they must be arrested and in my own opinion they must also ask for forgiveness from me or at least say out the truth as to why they abducted me,” he said.
“When I tried to find out from the police about the case, I later found out that the victims were arrested on assault charges and not for abduction or bodily harm, rather they were asked to pay $20 fine. It is very agonizing to be abducted, beaten and dropped far away from home only for the people who did that to pay $20 only. The thought of it is just traumatising.”
Gombe said justice should reign, and the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) should investigate those cases and perpetrators brought to book. While the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) has a mandate to ensure post-conflict justice, healing and reconciliation and to develop and implement programmes to promote national healing, unity and cohesion in Zimbabwe and the peaceful resolution of disputes, some survivors do not even know the existence of this organisation.
As Justice is not being served to the perpetrators, civil society organisations and the general populace have continuously urged the government to bring to book criminals of political violence impartially.