Zimbabwe: “Police can’t be held liable” in Jestina Mukoko lawsuit

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Human rights activist Jestina Mukoko, whose terrorism charges were dropped on Monday, is wasting no time reflecting on her traumatic experience in jail. She is now suing the Ministry of Home Affairs for a massive US$ 500 million for unlawful detention as well as demanding the return of her passport.

Mukoko’s lawyer, Harrison Nkomo late Thursday said he is suing several officials for her abduction, wrongful arrest and torture. The case targets the national police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, former intelligence minister Didymus Mutasa and several police officers. “The financial damages sought are for illegal abduction, disappearance and torture at the hands of State players,” said Nkomo.

Besides Chihuri and Mutasa, a number of senior security agents and police officers, involved in the planning and execution of the abductions, were named in a court affidavit some months ago. They are: Assistant Director External of the CIO retired Brigadier Asher Walter Tapfumanei; police Superintendents Reggies Chitekwe and Joel Tenderere; Detective Inspectors Elliot Muchada and Joshua Muzanango; Officer commanding CID Homicide the notorious Crispen Makedenge; Chief Superintendent Peter Magwenzi; Senior Assistant Commissioner Simon Nyathi.

Mukoko is seeking $250 million of that settlement, he said, adding that the rest would be split between the other activists.

Police can’t be held responsible

Mukoko testified earlier this year that she had been tortured and assaulted in jail. The defendants appeared with bloodied, swollen faces during court appearances late last year. But national police spokesperson Wayne Bvudzijena said police couldn’t be held liable for anything done to Mukoko. He said “It is their prerogative to pursue any legal recourse with regard to any perceived violence they allege may have happened,” said Bvudzijena. “The police will also advance and argument why they can’t be held liable for anything done to Jestina and the others” he added. Mukoko was held incommunicado in secret detention facilities until December 24, when she appeared in court charged with sabotage, banditry and terrorism.

During her detention, she says she was tortured by her abductors together with 23 other human rights and political activists. Seven other people who were abducted around the same time with Mukoko are said to be still missing. Mukoko appeared at the news conference after the Monday ruling but declined to speak, saying she was still traumatized by her ordeal. There has been no public reaction from President Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

Bail money back

Handing down judgement in the matter Monday, Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku ordered a permanent stay of prosecution in the criminal case. Mukoko is also demanding her bail deposit, passport and title deeds from the Attorney General (AG)’s Office following her acquittal. In a letter written to the AG’s Office just after her acquittal, Nkomo said the AG’s Office should reimburse Mukoko her bail money of US$600, return her title deeds and her passport which she surrendered in February as part of her bail conditions. “We are fully aware that all these are in the custody of the clerk of court, but a letter from your office explaining the legal position to the clerk of court might expedite this matter,” read part of Nkomo’s letter.

Mukoko said she needs her passport to enable her to travel to Germany to receive a human rights award and to attend meetings in the United States of America.

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