HARARE – President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces has dismissed claims that the army raped women and killed people during recent protests over massive increases in the price of fuel.
In an interview with France24 in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, Mnangagwa said the women who appeared in interviews saying they were raped by soldiers were planted by some unnamed non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
He said the claims were stage-managed and appealed to the public to produce the women who were raped by the soldiers.
“With regards to the allegations of rape we have both through print media, radio and TV appealed to those victims to come forward, report to the nearest police station. If you are not comfortable to report to the nearest police station you go to the nearest church and report the abuse you underwent,” he said.
“We have only one single case that has come up in Chitungwiza. The rest, we now know that the women who were paraded was just make up by some organisations and some of the women have now left the country, have been shipped to the United Kingdom.
“The few who are still in the country are being moved from house to house and we are trying to track them down. It’s all stage-managed. We are challenging anybody, local or foreign to produce the women so the world can see them and say this is what happened,” he added.
The 76-year-old president could, however, not deny that the army overstepped its power in crushing last month’s protests.
“With regard to beatings and judicial killings, we want to see evidence where the 17 people were killed. Let us have relatives coming forward to say I lost a son, a daughter or relative at the hands of the army. I’m not saying the army did not overstep their powers individually, some have (been) arrested. We have also arrested over 1 000 people who have been in court over destruction of property,” he said.
Mnangagwa is in the Ethiopian capital attending the African Union Summit (AU), which ended yesterday.
His government accuses NGOs of conniving to smear its name internationally by publishing reprehensible images of systematic abuse across the world.
It claims that the aim was to put Zimbabwe under the spotlight ahead of international forums such as the AU Summit and forthcoming meetings of the European Union to review sanctions against Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum says the Zimbabwe National Army and Zimbabwe Republic Police were implicated in at least 1 803 cases that were recorded.
“To date, the violations include at least 17 extra-judicial killings, 17 cases of rape or other violations of a sexual nature, 26 abductions, 61 displacements, 81 assaults consistent with gunshot attacks, at least 586 assaults and torture, inhuman and degrading treatment including dog bites, 954 arrests and detention (including dragnet arrests), among other violations,” the NGO Forum noted.