Former Home Affairs minister, Dumiso Dabengwa, has been accused of personally presiding over tortures by state security agents close to a decade ago. Dabengwa, who is the leader of the recently revived ZAPU party, could see his political future tainted by the accusations. Yesterday he briefly denied the allegations.
The claims are from Zimbabwean exiles in both South Africa and Bostwana who sneaked into the country for the festive season. Most of them founder members of the Movement for Democratic Change.
They claim Dabengwa was fond of “sitting and watching” while they were assaulted by state security agents back in 1999. The activists could not explain why they were now going public after remaining silent for ten years.
One claim is from Khumbulani Sibanda, formerly a youth member of the MDC in Bulawayo.
He said that one night in 1999, they were tortured for more than eight hours, some of the time in Dabengwa’s presence, at Magnet house, headquarters of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) in the city.
“I was among a group of about 16 MDC activists who were raided in the city
one evening, while on our way to the MDC offices, where we wanted to leave our posters and other party material after a rally. While on the way, we were raided along Josiah Chinamano Street at about 7 pm, and force-marched to Magnet House,” said one activist.
He said that their captors, who numbered more than 40 people, most of whom appeared to be war veterans, accused them of trying to return Zimbabwe to its colonial rulers.
The activist, who claims he was among the most vocal members in the group, says that on arrival at Magnet House, most of their captors departed, leaving them in the hands of people they suspected to be members of the CIO.
They had then been tortured.
Confirming the allegations, Sibanda said that while they were still being
beaten, Dabengwa arrived in the offices and they thought that he would free them, since he was a government minister.
“The CIO continued with the assaults, accusing us of being terrorists who
wanted to topple Mugabe. Dabengwa sat in one of the seats in the big office
and told us that we should co-operate or else we would die. He was there for more than three hours, while we were being tortured and forced to eat party fliers and other materials that had remained from the rally,” he said.
One of the activists, who claims he fled to South Africa after he was
arrested and tortured on several occasions, says that he lost part of his
eye-sight and control of his left arm during the beating that Dabengwa
“My life has been destroyed now. I cannot do any job that is physically
demanding because I cannot control my left arm. I have to visit an eye
specialist every month, while also having to change spectacles every six
months,” he added.
Dabengwa defected from Zanu-PF in February last year to join former Finance Minister, Simba Makoni’s Mavambo project. When reached for comment, Dabengwa briefly denied the allegations Sunday evening.
Dabengwa, who was Home Affairs Minister for eight years ending in 2000, is
now the chairman of a revived ZAPU, which broke away from a unity accord
signed by Mugabe and former political rival, Joshua Nkomo in 1987.
“When I was in government and in Zanu-PF, I used to tell Mugabe not to
victimize and use violence against the MDC but he did not listen,” said
Dabengwa at a press conference soon after election to his new position.
“He refused to stop using violence against the MDC saying that the power
base of Zanu-PF was threatened. He was unrepentant and believes violence is the solution.”