Who Will Stop Zimbabwe’s Torturers?
I had never seen a combat machine gun in a civilian hospital until the day I went to Harare’s Avenues Clinic to visit two women, pro-democracy leaders who had just survived a brutal, methodical beating at the hands of the police.
“We went through unspeakable torture. Each time that night when we heard the sound of boots returning, our bowels loosened,” said Grace Kwinjeh of the ordeal she and Sekai Holland, 64, underwent.
Now they were attempting to heal while under armed guard, hearing those same boots approaching their bedsides intermittently throughout the night.
Zimbabwe’s “3/11” – the day 50 people set out to attend a prayer meeting but ended up suffering hours of torture by security agents – shocked the world and raised hopes that President Robert Mugabe’s impunity might at last be halted. But barely a month later, the television news cameras are pointing elsewhere, and international leaders are switching off their phones, declining to hear the shrill cries coming out of Zimbabwe.
Why? There are two reasons. First, southern African leaders have told the world that the Zimbabwe problem must be left to them to address; and second, the new victims of Mugabe’s crackdown are “smaller” people – street level pro-democracy organizers, known in their communities but scarcely recognized in the neighboring district, let alone in the wider world.