Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi & Opposition Official Grace Kwinjeh
The guests on the programme Hot Seat are an unlikely pair: Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and opposition official Grace Kwinjeh. Grace was among the group of opposition leaders who were arrested and tortured while in police custody four weeks ago. But despite overwhelming video and picture evidence showing brutalised activists, the minister denies this.
Broadcast Tues 10 April 2007
|Violet Gonda: My guest on the programme Hot Seat today is Grace Kwinjeh the Deputy Secretary for International Relations in the Tsvangirai MDC. She was among the group of opposition leaders who were arrested and tortured while in police custody four weeks ago and she's currently in South Africa for medical treatment. Welcome on the programme Grace.|
Grace Kwinjeh: Thank-you.
Violet: Now Grace, before we start I just wanted to play for you and also for our listeners an interview that I did with Kembo Mohadi, Monday evening. I asked him to comment about the attacks that are taking place in Zimbabwe right now and this is what happened.
Kembo Mohadi: Hello
Violet: Hello, Minister Mohadi?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Yes
Violet: Hello Minister, my name is Violet; I'm calling from SW Radio Africa
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Where?
Violet: From SW Radio Africa
Minister Kembo Mohadi: What can I do for you Madam?
Violet: Minster I wanted to find out from you or to get a comment from you about the allegations from the MDC that a lot of their activists are getting arrested and tortured in custody. And, as the Home Affairs Minister, I wanted to find out or to get your comment on this.
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No we don't arrest anybody and torture people here in Zimbabwe . We arrest criminals and even if they are terrorist criminals we don't torture them. The law takes its own course, if someone has got a case to answer he goes to Court and he is convicted. Those allegations are false.
Violet: But Minister Mohadi these MDC leaders and activists have actually appeared in Court covered in blood. So how can you explain this?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Ah no, when was that?
Violet: How can you explain this?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: When was that? When was that? When did they appear in Court covered in blood? That is a wrong statement. When was it?
Violet: The MDC
Minister Kembo Mohadi: did you see them covered in blood?
Violet: Morgan Tsvangirai
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Did you see them covered in blood?
Violet: MorganTsvangirai appeared on TV
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Ah no
Violet: He was seen on TV
Minister Kembo Mohadi: He was not even covered in blood. That's a lie. You come to Zimbabwe and witness this for yourself and don't be talking about things that you don't know. And we don't ban people from coming to Zimbabwe . Why do you have to listen to CNN and Sky News and BBC? Come to Zimbabwe and see for yourself and report correctly.
Violet: But Minister Mohadi you know that .
Sound of the phone line going dead
Violet: Hello? Hello? And we lost connection with the Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, but I called him back and this is what happened.
Violet: Minister we must have got cut off?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Yes, I said come to Zimbabwe and report correctly man! We are bombed by the MDC, they are involved in terrorist activities and you don't report about that! We've got a lot of them in custody, we've got a lot of them that are going on trial and have been remanded by our Courts. And they are possessing arms of war and you don't report about that. I say come to Zimbabwe and see for yourself man! We don't ban you from coming. You come to Zimbabwe you can see it for yourself other than to report from hearsay. I don't want to be talking to people that get these things from hearsay.
Violet: But that's why I'm talking to you direct so that we can hear it from you
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No, no, no, you are talking to me directly over the phone. Come to Zimbabwe and report correctly!
Violet: But you know that SW Radio Africa is banned in Zimbabwe ?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: What ban? You come to me, I'm the Minister of Home Affairs and say you want to come and report then you, you you will cover the story that you want, other than talking. I don't want to be talking to you about rumours please; please can you please leave it alone
Violet: But that's why I'm talking to you
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No, no, no, can you please leave me alone. There's nothing like that. I've told you that everything is false so what else do you want?
Violet: You have said that journalists can come to Zimbabwe , but how many journalists have been arrested?
Kembo Mohadi: Yeah why don't you come to Zimbabwe if you, you know who has been arrested?
Violet: Wasn't there a journalist Gift Phiri, an independent journalist who was arrested last week?
Kembo Mohadi: Who is that? Who has been arrested?
Violet: Gift Phiri is a journalist that's actually at the Avenues Clinic right now
Kembo Mohadi: Ya but you come to Zimbabwe
Violet: Receiving treatment after he was brutalised by the police
Kembo Mohadi: No you've got to, if you come to Zimbabwe you've got to register, you've got to report that you are a journalist, you are accredited. Don't just come and report when you are not accredited. Whether you are a freelance or what you get accredited man. We are a sovereign country here. You can't just come and do things as if you are on a picnic.
Violet: So are you saying ?
Minis ter Kembo Mohadi: We must know what; we must know that you are in Zimbabwe and that you are reporting for that and that paper.
Violet: Minister Mohadi: there are several journalists who
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Rumour spreader, why do you, why, why .
Violet: There are several journalists who have been assaulted
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Now there is no journalist that is in jail here in Zimbabwe, can you come tomorrow, fly tomorrow and then phone me, phone me on Wednesday because tomorrow I'm in Cabinet and fly in and come and identify a journalist that is in prison here or that is
Violet: Gift Phiri is one journalist
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Ya you come and show me. There is no one of that sort, that is
Violet: He was released just a few days ago
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No, no, that's not true, that's not true, that's not true. That's not true.
Violet: So what is the truth?
Minster Kembo Mohadi: No, there is nothing. I'm saying that's all false, we don't...
Violet: What about Edward Chikomba the ZBC cameraman who was murdered last week?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: He was murdered by who? Was he murdered by the police?
Violet: But is your government investigating to find out who
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Was he murdered by the police?
Violet : He was abducted in the same way that several opposition activists have been abducted
Minister Kembo Mohadi : Was he Abducted by who? By who?
Violet: By members of the state security agency
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Abducted by who? Who? Oh no, can you tell me that? Can you come and
Violet: So is your government going to investigate to find
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No come and look, ah please can you, if you don't want to talk to me stop giving me false accusations, ah please OK?
Violet: Minister do you understand that
Minister Kembo Mohadi: No, no, no I don't want to talk to you
Violet: Minister do you understand that Zimbabweans are frustrated with their daily struggles right now?
Minister Kembo Mohadi: Hey! Hey Hey Hey! Shut up!
Sound of the phone line going dead
Violet: But as a Minister, how can you even say that?
Sound of the phone line going dead again
Violet: And the Minister hung up again for the second time and when I tried to call him for the third time he would not pick up his phone. Now Grace, can you comment on this?
Grace Kwinjeh: I think it's such a tragedy for our country to have politicians of such a calibre. Politicians who do not think they have to be made accountable for their actions. Politicians who take journalists or the media for granted, who take the listeners of SW Radio Africa for granted. I think it's really sad but that is part of the whole problem we have in Zimbabwe now, of a ZANU PF leadership that does not think that it has to account to anybody; its own people, the region, or the broader international community. So everything they do is with impunity.
Violet: Right, now before we go to your experience or what happened to you, Minister Kembo Mohadi said that there are no journalists that are currently in detention and I gave him an example of Gift Phiri who was detained last week and he was tortured and he actually received treatment in a hospital in Harare . And then, is it not a fact that there is another journalist, Luke Tamborinyoka who is now the MDC's Media and Information Officer who is currently in detention right now?
Grace Kwinjeh: Yes, apart from Luke I can tell you that when we were arrested on the 11 th March we had two journalists with us. We had you know the photo journalist Tsvangirai Mukwazhi and another Reuters journalist who were tortured for the specific reason that they were journalists. There was nothing else, their torturers identified them as journalists who were taking pictures, who were reporting, and tortured them for that. So the brutal assaults on them, which I saw, which I witnessed, are something that you know I think it's laughable for the Home Affairs Minister to deny that exists. We know journalists are being hunted, haunted in Zimbabwe . We know that they are being tortured and we know that they are being killed.
Violet: And then also coming to Opposition officials and activists who are being arrested and tortured right now. Now you are one of them, one of the Opposition officials that was arrested just recently. Can you tell us what happened to you after you were arrested because the Minister denies that Opposition officials and activists were tortured in custody?
Grace Kwinjeh: We were tortured at Machipisa police station in the fence outside the cells for about four hours by different members of the State Agents. There were CIO's, there were officials from the Army, there were Riot Police and War Veterans. They all took turns to do whatever they could do to us, from beating us up with baton sticks to punches, to being danced on. Mrs Sekai Holland for instance had one official, a woman War Veteran, dance on her and call her 'whore' and all sorts of things. So it cannot be denied that we went through such a horrific experience in the hands of State Agents at Highfields Police Station. And, after that, I was also tortured in the cells and there are witnesses to this in full view of police officials by army officials. That was on the morning of the 12 th of March. And, the Officer who was in charge there at Braeside Police Station, his name is Makore. So again, that's something real that happened and there are witnesses. And, apart from the witnesses, we have wounds, visible wounds that we are being treated for.
Violet: That's what I wanted to find out from you
Grace Kwinjeh: Sekai Holland broke three ribs, broke an arm, broke a leg. I have internal head injuries, I have soft tissue injuries. And you know you saw Dr Lovemore Madhuku, you saw President Morgan Tsvangirai, Nelson Chamisa we know what happened to him, even after the 11 th March, what happened to him at Harare International Airport.
Violet: So in your case, what sort of treatment are you receiving? I understand you are in the same hospital with 64 year old Amai Holland, what treatment is she also receiving if you know?
Grace Kwinjeh: Well, a lot of treatment that includes a lot of therapy because what we went through this is really a nightmare and part of what we are receiving is therapy, de-briefing for us to get to deal with the trauma. And, we are also receiving specialised treatment. For instance, for me it's the internal head injuries. In Zimbabwe you know they could only scan that I had a swollen brain but did not have the right technology to deal with these. So here again there's the right technology for them to deal with the head injuries and the dizziness that I'm suffering from. Mrs Holland has had two operations so far and she still can't walk by the way. She is still bed ridden.
Violet: And in your article recently entitled the 'Woman in Me' you said you did not cry or beg for mercy and that none of the other victims on that day when you were arrested on the 11 th March cried or begged for mercy or denounced the Party or in any way tried to negotiate a way out of being brutalised. Now, was this position planned beforehand?
Grace Kwinjeh: Was this?
Violet: was this position planned beforehand that people would not cry and you know ?
Grace Kwinjeh: No, everyone was, didn't know they would get tortured. You don't plan torture, none of the people there knew or felt or even could foresaw that we could get tortured. The least we knew was that we would be arrested. The torture and the shock that came with that torture was amazing but not crying really was this just extraordinary strength that just overcomes you. I think it's just something that comes from God you know because these people are really brutalising you, you know, they want to kill, you know the things that they are doing to you. But, it's amazing that of the people who were there, the more than thirty of us, none of the people, everyone just withstood the pain because they would take turns around people, especially around the leadership. If they call up Sekai Holland then they are beating her non stop, then Lovemore Madhuku, Grace Kwinjeh, Morgan Tsvangirai and so on. But you know you just get an extraordinary strength from God. You know something just makes you look at evil in its eye, and you just look at it and bear it and of course they did beat us up like that.
Violet: What did they use when they were beating you and can you identify the attackers?
Grace Kwinjeh: Yes, I saw two of them in Court when we were in Court later on, on the 13 th March. But they were using all sorts of weapons. I was beaten up, for instance parts of my ear came off, they were using a metal bar about a metre long. You know, a metal bar on my head. That's really attempted murder. And I couldn't even see that part of my ear was off until much later when they were secretly transferring us from Machipisa to Harare Central Police Station. So I was bleeding from the head, and I thought it's my head bleeding and then later I touched and I felt this thing sticking out of my ear and it turns out that part of my ear was off. So they were using all sorts of weapons even army belts and then kicks. You know the woman who danced on Sekai Holland was wearing these thick winter boots so you know this was something they had planned in advance. It's hot in Zimbabwe right now, we're in the height of summer and you know she's in these thick, thick long winter boots, the ones you get in the United Kingdom with fur inside. And, she is dancing on Sekai, she danced on William Bango's head. So
Violet : Did these people look like they were intoxicated because you can imagine Amai Sekai Holland is, as I said before, 64 years old, and you can tell that she's a grandmother? Now you know when this woman, this other woman was dancing on top of her and beating her like this, did they look like people who were sober, you know, who really knew what they were doing?
Grace Kwinjeh: It's not about them being sober but it's about it, I think, representing the kind of ZANU PF politics that we have to deal with in Zimbabwe . The level of intolerance, the level of brutality when a regime or a political party is challenged. You know what, the kind of venom you get from ZANU PF politicians, what you got now from Kembo Mohadi, that event there just crystallised all that, just shows you what ZANU PF is and what it stands for.
Violet: And also Grace you wrote in your article, and I quote and you said 'and so, as is the case too often in Opposition politics, the attack on us women was more on our sexuality'. Now what do you mean by this?
Grace Kwinjeh: Yes because it was about our bums, the colour of my hair and different things, being called whores and so on or the husbands, the colour of husbands we have chosen to marry, as in the case of Sekai Holland. But none of the male colleagues were assaulted or insulted in that way. For them it was really political, so if they were beating up Lovemore Madhuku it's because he's leading NCA demos and etc. So, the attack on women, you know, the way rape is used as a weapon. Look at what is happening to women in Sudan for instance. Look at what happens in war situations, the way rape has often been used as an instrument. It'sthe way you know the ZANU PF thugs were using our sexuality against us.
Violet: So do you believe that you were brutalised and treated in this way mainly because you are a woman?
Grace Kwinjeh : Yeah
Violet: I mean do you mean there's a campaign of violence directed against women by the Mugabe regime.
Grace Kwinjeh: Yes. But then, that kind of violence when they call you whores and so on, is also characteristic you know of the misogynistic nature of our environment. The intolerance against women, especially women who come out in leadership or in the public sphere, women who are challenging certain things about the society. And the only way the male colleagues can deal with you is by calling you 'whore', then you are finished, you have to shut up. And, unfortunately that kind of politics is not in ZANU PF alone but you find it even in Opposition politics, you find it even with fellow male journalists, you find it everywhere. The only way to silence a woman is by calling her a 'hure' (whore) and on this day unfortunately it was in such a violent and brutal manner which was really terrible.
Violet: And you know, in a way violence against women goes against our culture and what boys are taught by their parents. Now, it may sound like a repetition but do you believe that the Mugabe regime has to use particular people like psychopaths or youths high on drink and drugs to commit acts of violence against women in this particular case?
Grace Kwinjeh: Yes, I think for them to perpetrate that kind of violence they have to be intoxicated by something and you could see after the four hours the heart beating. You could see later on at Harare Central Police Station for instance when some of them started to sober up, you could see that they were really afraid of what they had done. And that's the unfortunate bit of it, that they are used at that moment and once that really I feel sorry for the youth, the 16 year olds, 18 year olds, 20 year old youth who are involved in the militia who are given drugs and they carry out these acts of violence, these unlawful acts of violence and then later on they have to face the consequences.
Violet: So what was going through your mind when this was happening?
Grace Kwinjeh: Nothing. You just look at them. Nothing you know, nothing happens, you freeze, everything in you freezes temporarily. And for me, I was tortured on that day and then later on they came to torture me again in the cells. Nothing happens. You know, it's one of those moments that you just stop thinking and look at evil, like I said.
Violet: Now you have made enormous sacrifices, both physical and material, leaving your young family to fight for change in Zimbabwe . Do you wish now that you had taken an easier path?
Grace Kwinjeh: No, not at all, not at all. I think the struggle continues and I think many of the comrades who are in the struggle, many of the comrades I was told that those who are in remand who have been denied bail are actually in high spirits. There's something about it Violet, when you are there Violet and you are feeling it and going through it, there's something about it that just gives you enormous strength and that just tells you that God is on your side. And so, I don't regret it at all, I think that it's really my fate or my destiny, I had to go, that's why I had to go back to Zimbabwe, I had to be part of the leadership at this phase of our political history. And I think it's an important phase because it's going to lead us somewhere and I think that's why the regime is panicking.
Violet: And just before you left for South Africa with Mai Sekai Holland you had been released, you know, to a hospital under Riot Police guard and then you were arrested again whilst trying to leave the country to go for urgent medical treatment in South Africa . How do you interpret the actions of the government then and were you very afraid when you were being denied that chance or that right to leave the country for treatment?
Grace Kwinjeh: Yeah it's scary, it's really scary. What they did is, we were in a MARS Ambulance, so they actually let us get all the way to the airport and it was at the airport that they turned us back. First we had stopped at Harare Central Police station where our lawyers were talking to them trying to negotiate that we had to leave and that there were no charges against us. If you remember that the State could not present its case to the Magistrates' Court so there were no charges, everybody was free. But then, we were told 'no, that was not the case' So we were brought back under police guard, we had to sleep with Riot Police in front of us with guns and having been tortured, you imagine that the people who tortured you are there in front of you and you are trying to sleep. So it's a very nasty traumatic experience which I hope never to go through again in my life. So we had them on 24 hour guard from Sunday up to Wednesday. And then on Wednesday when we managed to get a Court Order that we could leave the country that is when they left and on Wednesday night we managed to sleep well.
Violet Gonda: And Grace what about the issue of the way forward? What are your views concerning the regional initiative to bring the political parties together?
Grace Kwinjeh: I think that's good for the political parties together. In any war situation, time comes when the warring parties have to get together and come up with a settlement. But, what needs to be understood are the basis upon which those parties are coming together and what they have to come up with. We have had the experience of 2000, we've had the experience of 2002, we've had you know numerous experiences where ZANU PF will pretend to be doing something, you know to be negotiating in good faith and yet on the other hand they are in reverse gear to what's being discussed or what is getting agreed upon. So, I think that this time round, and the use of violence as a negotiating tool, I think that is wrong. Because what Mugabe is doing now, he is saying OK I'm going to abduct, I'm going to arrest, I'm going to kill as many people so by the time these folks come and people come round the table you are negotiating and three journalists get killed, not five. You are negotiating that 15 journalists get arrested not 30 and negotiating that the Opposition be allowed to hold rallies under POSA when we know POSA is wrong. So what they are basically doing is raising the tempo so that at the end of the day whatever we get as Zimbabweans, we are so desperate that we say yes this is what we want. But that is wrong.
We want what is basic. We want internationally accepted norms and standards of democratic practice. We don't want you know, mediocrity, the kind of mediocrity that we've been having in Zimbabwe since 2000. I'm here in South Africa ; they are enjoying certain things freely like that. There is an article, for instance, in one of the newspapers today; there is a woman who is complaining that she got her passport after six weeks. This is a passport after six weeks; the public is outraged. In Zimbabwe having a passport has now become a privilege. So we are saying in Zimbabwe we want to live well like in other countries in the region and other countries internationally. But butchering us into succumbing is really wrong and I hope that President Mbeki this time round realises that no, we have to have certain solid understanding of what we want to achieve. Otherwise, like the efforts in 2000 and 2002 nothing much is going to be achieved.
Violet Gonda: Thank you very much Grace Kwinjeh.
Grace Kwinjeh: Thank you
Audio interview can be heard on SW Radio Africa 's Hot Seat programme (Tues 10 April 2007 ). Comments and feedback can be emailed to email@example.com
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