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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

& Other Ill Treatment

In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                

Republic of Zimbabwe

Security forces backed by ZANU-PF have long engaged in acts of extralegal violence, including against opposition supporters, and impunity is the norm for such abuses. Detainees and protesters often face police brutality, sometimes resulting in death.

Despite some improvements in recent years, prison conditions are harsh and at times life-threatening. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and food shortages have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses among inmates.  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Description: Zimbabwe

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Zimbabwe.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Zimbabwe

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 12 August 2021]


NGOs reported security forces abducted, assaulted, and tortured citizens in custody, including targeted assault on and torture of civil society activists, labor leaders, opposition members, and other perceived opponents of the government. Throughout the year police used excessive force in apprehending, detaining, and interrogating criminal suspects. In some cases police arrested and charged the victims of violence rather than the perpetrators and accused abduction victims of filing false reports.

Human rights groups reported government agents continued to perpetrate physical and psychological torture on labor leaders and opposition party members during abductions. Reported torture methods included sexual assault; beating victims with sticks, clubs, cables, gun butts, and sjamboks (a heavy whip); falanga (beating the soles of the feet); forced consumption of human excrement; and oral chemical poisoning, as well as pouring corrosive substances on exposed skin. As of November there were a minimum of five reports of short-term abductions and assaults or torture allegedly performed by state security actors. These instances typically occurred at night, although some happened in broad daylight. The abductors forcibly removed persons from their homes, parking lots, and press conferences and assaulted them for hours before abandoning them, usually severely injured and naked, in a remote area.


Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening due to overcrowding, food shortages, and inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care.

Physical Conditions: Conditions in prisons, jails, and detention centers were often harsh. While some prisons operated below capacity, NGOs reported that most were overcrowded due to outdated infrastructure and judicial backlogs.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 16 May 2020]


Security forces backed by ZANU-PF have long engaged in acts of extralegal violence, including against opposition supporters, and impunity is the norm for such abuses. Detainees and protesters often face police brutality, sometimes resulting in death. The security crackdown associated with the January 2019 protests included 17 fatalities and hundreds of cases of torture or other forms of egregious physical abuse.

Despite some improvements in recent years, prison conditions are harsh and at times life-threatening. Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and food shortages have contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses among inmates.

Govt compensates Mukoko over torture

Pauline Hurungudo, DailyNews, Harare, 15 December 2018

[accessed 16 December 2018]

Mukoko was abducted at dawn in her nightdress by unidentified armed men from her Norton home on December 3, 2008 and tortured before being handed over to the police 19 days later.

Mtetwa argued that there was serious violation of several of her fundamental rights by State Security agents, including being subjected to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment including simulated drowning, being locked in a freezer and being subjected to physical assaults as her tormenters tried to make her confess to plotting to overthrow the administration of Zimbabwe's former leader, Robert Mugabe.

Police torture victim still battling for life

Nokuthaba Dlamini, NewsDay, 20 December 2017

[accessed 22 December 2017]

Seven months after she was reportedly forced by police officers to sit on an acidic substance, burning her backside in the process, 30-year-old Victoria Falls resident Zibusiso Moyo is still battling for her life and says she has lost hope of completely healing as the wound has remained septic.

Moyo was allegedly picked up from the streets sometime in June this year and tortured by police officers who accused her of loitering for purposes of prostitution.

She claimed was made to sit on a caustic soda-covered van surface where she suffered severe burns on her backside and private parts, resulting in a miscarriage and haemorrhage that medical doctors are reportedly failing to stop.

Moyo said her gaping wounds had not responded well to treatment and she had been advised to seek specialist treatment in South Africa, which she said was beyond her means.

“My skin is always reacting and the rash becomes itchy whenever I am exposed to the sun or when I take medication.

“I wish God could take away this pain from me by letting me die because I am now like a moving grave.”

'Jailing Mugabe would bring Zimbabwe bad luck', says survivor of Mugabe's torture

Mahlatse Mahlase, News24, Johannesburg, 24 Nov 2017

[accessed 25 November 2017]

A survivor of atrocities committed by former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's regime, has called for a truth and reconciliation commission instead of jailing the former long time ruler.

I was arrested about 11 times - three times I was tortured with electro shocks, water dumping and water suffocation and they threw me in remand prison for 23 days wounded and still they continued torturing me but refused to give me medication," Chikowero said.

MP relives horrible CIO abduction, torture

Veneranda Langa, The Standard, 17 July 2016

[accessed 2 August 2016]

“Initially, we were taken together in a Toyota Venture vehicle — blue in colour. We were blindfolded and kept separately incommunicado for 55 days. ln solitary confinement, we were harassed, tortured and beaten up thoroughly in a bid to make us confess to what we did not do,” she said.

Chinanzvavana said they were detained incommunicado from October 30 up to December 22 2008, after which they were taken to Ahmed House in Harare at the police’s Central Investigations Department (CID) fraud section. They were then told they were now in the hands of the police.

“The officer-in-charge was Superintendent Peter Magwenzi. We were then kept in police custody for two days and two nights for collection of statements, and then taken to court on Christmas eve of 2008,” she recalls.

“We were remanded in custody at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison’s D-section until March 3 2009, when we got out on bail.”.

Mukoko reveals grotesque torture

Daily News, Harare, 8 May 2016

[accessed 14 August 2016]

Then her captors accused her of working with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and stunningly accused her of insurgency and recruiting MDC youths to train in Botswana in an alleged regime change plot.

She denied this, and the torture started. She was told to either turn State witness “or face extinction” and be buried in the premises.

She recalls being beaten brutally on the soles of her feet.

“They used long steel covered in rubber all over; it was the most painful thing my body had ever experienced.

“That method of torture is called falanga, where they whip your soles because they knew that in the past it was not easy to detect the injuries, even through x-ray. But now there is scan called the colour doppler, that can easily detect dilated veins that are in line with that kind of torture.”

Speaking at the Harare book launch, Petras lamented that Zimbabwe still does not have laws which deal with enforced disappearances.

“This presents a challenge to lawyers and even the police don’t know how to deal with matters of this nature,” she said.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


The government of President Robert Mugabe continued to violate human rights in 2014 without regard to protections in the country’s new constitution. An expected legislative framework and new or amended laws to improve human rights in line with the constitution never materialized.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR PAST ABUSES - Lack of accountability for past abuses remains a serious problem in Zimbabwe. The government has failed to ensure justice for victims more than five years after the 2008 politically motivated violence in which the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), backed by state security forces, committed widespread and systematic abuses that led to the killing of up to 200 people, the beating and torture of 5,000 more, and the displacement of about 36,000 people.

Zanu PF officials ordered to compensate torture victim

Mthulisi Mathuthu, SW Radio Africa, 2 mAY 2014

[accessed 4 May 2014]

Nyasha Gutsire was awarded $3,000 in compensation for the pain he suffered at the hands of Inyanga ZANU PF officials during the 2008 elections. The late Justice Karwi found both Matthew Nyamakanga and Nicholas Matsivira guilty of abducting Gutsire and handing him over to thugs at whose hands he suffered his fate.

Nyamakanga and Matsivira, both ZANU PF officials, abducted their victim in June 2008 and handed him over to thugs at the Nyanga Community Hall in Nyamhuka Business Center. Gutsire was then assaulted with logs and suffered injuries to his feet and eyes which persist to this day. He was also forced to sit very close to a fire, which aggravated his pain and injuries.

Police torture Mbada Diamond employees

Zimbabwe Independent, 17 April 2014

[accessed 20 April 2014]

Gwazaza, who is employed as a sorter supervisor by Mbada Diamonds, said: “They (police) boasted that they could kill me and nothing will happen to them by way of being arrested and tried. One of the investigating officers wielded a baton stick and told me to agree with what they were saying and admit the allegation.”

He further claimed: “He hit me on my back about once or twice. I saw that I was in great danger and I had to accede and submit.”   Gondo said he was subjected to assault while being handcuffed.

He said: “He Mvere produced a pistol from a laptop bag and pointed it at me. He told me to say my last prayer loudly before he shot me dead.   “I was terrified. It would take a man of superhuman fortitude not to feel terrified under the circumstances. I believed that I was going to be shot dead in a few minutes.”

Support Unit cops torture man to death

New Zimbabwe, 25 February 2014

[accessed 1 March 2014]

[accessed 20 January 2019]

Two Chiredzi police officers attached to the ZRP Support Unit fatally tortured a man to death in apparent revenge after he defeated one of them in a fight.

The court heard that the pair tortured Luckson Muringani of Chivhiko Village under Chief Sengwe in Chiredzi for a whole night at Chibwedziva police base in 2010.

Muringani died six days later. Evidence produced in court showed he died from a fractured skull sustained during the torture.

Chiredzi cops ‘torture’ suspect to death

New Zimbabwe, 6 February 2014

[accessed 8 Feb 2014]

Two Chiredzi police officers have appeared in court charged with murder after allegedly handcuffing and beating a suspect to death.

The fatal assault occurred on January 31 this year when constables Patrick Matutu, 31, and Tatenda Kutsukutsa, 26, - who are stationed at a police station in Chikombedzi - went to arrest Rungani Gezani for domestic violence.   Gezani had allegedly assaulted his wife the previous night.

The court heard that the police officers caught up with Gezani in his fields, handcuffed him and started assaulting him with their batons.   After the assault they forced him to run the 8 km distance to the police station while they cycled behind him.   The prosecutor said after running for a while, Gezani started complaining about dizziness, difficulty in breathing and thirst.   He then collapsed to the ground and the officers frantically tried to resuscitate him by splashing cold water on his lifeless body.

Fresh Zim torture docket handed to SA authorities for investigation

Alex Bell, SW Radio Africa, 3 December 2013

[accessed 5 Dec 2013]

[accessed 9 August 2017]

In one affidavit, seven labourers were picked up by police officers, beaten throughout the journey to a police station and while in custody were beaten with an armoured cable and batons. Other examples of torture committed included some victims being beaten over the head with a rifle butt which resulted in a fractured skull, or being beaten on the soles of the feet with a sjambok, logs, cables or iron bars. One of the farm workers reported being beaten over the head with an iron bar and then, after his attackers had urinated on him, they threw him onto a fire they had lit in an open pit.

South Africa Pushed to Hear Zimbabwe Torture Case

Anita Powell, Voice of America VOA News, Johannesburg, 1 November 2013

[accessed 2 Nov 2013]

The case that lawyers are pushing South Africa to try is a harrowing one.  In 2007, court documents say, Zimbabwe police raided the headquarters of an opposition party and rounded up scores of supporters.

Those arrested say the police beat, water boarded and shocked them, and even held mock executions.  Their lawyers argue that the torture is a crime against humanity because it was so widespread and systematic.

The names of the alleged perpetrators and victims have not been publicly released, though lawyers have said the accused are “high-level officials.”

But the case has faced resistance in South African courts.  That’s because it happened in neighboring Zimbabwe, and prosecutors have argued that they have no obligation to try the case here.

But the Southern African Litigation Center says that South Africa’s own laws oblige them to step in and prosecute crimes against humanity in their region.

ACHPR Finds Zimbabwe Guilty of Torture

Richard Lee, allAfrica, 24 March 2013

[accessed 25 March 2013]

Shumba, who was representing human rights activists and members of the opposition party MDC before courts in Zimbabwe at the time of his arrest and torture at the hands of the police and intelligence personnel, emphasised that the ruling went beyond his case.

Shumba brought a complaint before the African Commission in 2004 and in its decision, the ACHPR considered that Shumba had submitted "more than adequate evidence" to support his allegation of torture and ill-treatment, including being subjected to prolonged electric shocks in the mouth, genitals, fingers, toes and other parts of the body. It said Zimbabwe failed to open an official investigation and that it should do so and bring those responsible to justice.

Policing and Human Rights -- Assessing southern African countries’ compliance with the SARPCCO Code of Conduct for Police Officials

Edited by Amanda Dissel & Cheryl Frank, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum APCOF, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-920489-81-6

[accessed 25 March 2014]


No police official shall, under any circumstances, inflict, instigate, or tolerate any act of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of any person.

There are numerous reports on torture, harassment, ill-treatment and arbitrary arrests against human rights activists, opposition party supporters and ordinary citizens.  Police, state security agents, and ZANU-PF supporters have been implicated in this violence. Torture and ill-treatment have been particularly rampant during and around Zimbabwe’s elections.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015

TORTURE AND EXTRAJUDICIAL EXECUTIONS IN POLICE CUSTODY - At least eight people died in police custody under circumstances that suggest that they were tortured or summarily executed.

On 19 March, three young men who had been taken into custody at Southerton Police station in Harare died in very suspicious circumstances. Tendai Dzigarwi and Rufaro Mahohoma had been arrested on 18 March in Harare’s suburb of Kambuzuma by police from the Vehicle Theft Squad. They were arrested on suspicion of motor vehicle theft. A third man, Emmson Ngundu, was arrested on 19 March in Zvimba district. The police claimed the three men were killed during an attempted escape, but an independent post-mortem conducted on Tendai Dzigarwi concluded that he died from a gunshot wound to the head fired from 2-3cm. Eyewitness accounts of the wounds of the other two men point to the same conclusion.

On 13 September, two days after his release, Harrison Manyati died at Harare Central Hospital from injuries sustained during torture while in detention at Makoni Police station in Chitungwiza. Harrison Manyati had been arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained on 7 September after he had gone to the police station to enquire about a friend arrested for housebreaking, theft and illegal entry. Police accused him of being an accomplice and he was detained for four days without being charged or taken to court. Police told family members that Harrison Manyati had committed no crime. When he was released he laid charges of assault against the police officers. According to an eyewitness, Manyati was tortured during the first two days of his detention, and then detained for two days to allow the wounds to heal. An independent post-mortem report concluded that Manyati’s death was a direct result of torture.


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 17 February 2013]

[accessed 7 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – Although the constitution prohibits such practices, security forces tortured, raped, and otherwise abused persons. There continued to be reports that police used excessive force in apprehending and detaining criminal suspects. Government supporters continued to torture suspected opposition members and farm laborers.

On April 7, MDC MP-elect for Kuwadzana constituency, Nelson Chamisa, was arrested and detained for three days for allegedly inciting violence. Police denied Chamisa food while he was detained. Police officers removed him from the police station in the middle of the night, beat him, and removed him from the police vehicle and forced him to march in leg irons alongside the vehicle. On April 8, Chamisa's attorney officially complained to police officers in charge of the first police station, but there was no official action by year's end.

In December 2004 police arrested Kenny Karidza, the ZANU-PF deputy director of security, on charges of breaching the Official Secrets Act by allegedly selling state secrets to foreign governments. Karidza claimed police detained him at a police station for 14 days in underground cells and tortured him repeatedly. Subsequently, he was blindfolded and moved to a military camp. Karidza claimed he signed a written confession to end the torture. At year's end his trial had not yet begun.

There were no developments in the reported 2003 cases of torture and beating.

Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 7   Civil Liberties: 6   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 17 February 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 13 May 2020]

In general, security forces are accountable to the government but abuse citizens with impunity. They often ignore basic rights regarding detention, searches, and seizures. The government has taken no clear action to halt the rising incidence of torture and mistreatment of suspects in custody. ZANU-PF militias operate as de facto enforcers of government policies and have committed assault, torture, rape, extralegal evictions, and extralegal executions without fear of punishment; the incidence of these abuses increased significantly in 2008. Security forces have taken on major roles in crop collection, food distribution, and enforcement of monetary policy, and both the police and the military are heavily politicized.

Pretrial detention is a major problem, with some inmates held for over 10 years without trial. Scores of MDC officials and activists were abducted, charged with treason, and detained without due process throughout 2008; 16 remained in custody by year’s end. Prison conditions are harsh and life-threatening. Severe overcrowding and a major shortage of funds have contributed to a rise in HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis infections among inmates and the deterioration of already poor sanitation facilities. Deaths in prisons are often caused by disease or beatings by guards, and many prisoners rely on family members for food.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Zimbabwe ",, [accessed <date>]