HUMAN rights and civil society organisations yesterday called for the prosecution of Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) rangers who allegedly tortured Tsholotsho villagers in a bid to extract information on the source of cyanide used to poison elephants at the Hwange National Park.
Zimparks said just over a 100 jumbos died as a result of the poisoning, but environmentalists believe more than 300 were killed.
A number of villagers were tortured for allegedly possessing cyanide with one of them, Lot Zondo (51) of Phelandaba village suffering serious injuries which left him with a weak bladder while Danisa Ndlovu reportedly had his genitals burnt.
Zimrights director Okay Machisa said the rangers’ actions were barbaric and they should be prosecuted as it was illegal to torture any person, including suspects.
“It’s very unfortunate that the rangers tortured the villagers,” he said.
“It’s not allowed. It’s criminal in Zimbabwe to torture anyone, be it physical or mental torture as the country ratified the United Nations protocol against torture.
“Those who are responsible should be identified and prosecuted as their actions were uncalled for, illegal and barbaric.”
Abammeli Lawyers for Human Rights also castigated the torture of villagers and asked the Zimparks management to adhere to the laws of the country and bring the perpetrators of these heinous acts to book.
“The Constitution of Zimbabwe outlaws torture in whatever circumstances.
“All agencies of the State are under the Constitution of the country and no one is above the law.
“If it’s true that the parks rangers tortured villagers, it’s unconstitutional, illegal and abhorrent.
“We don’t expect rangers to act outside the law,” Matshobane Ncube of Abammeli said.
“The villagers who were tortured should find recourse in the courts.
“We call once again on the Zimparks leadership to ensure they adhere to the Constitution of the land.
“These villagers are marginalised and need the protection of the State. We call upon all those villagers who were abused by the State to take up the cases with the courts.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said torture was an international crime, which cannot be tolerated under any circumstances.
“The Constitution clearly provides for the protection of the rights of accused persons and all law enforcement agents, including Zimparks officials, must respect that,” ZLHR spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda said, adding that the victims should find recourse in the courts.
Mafunda said if evidence is available that confessions were extracted by torture, there is a high likelihood that the cases of some of the accused would be compromised.
Bulawayo Agenda also condemned torture of villagers and called for the prosecution of the rangers who have been implicated.
It said Zondo’s five-day ordeal at the hands of Zimparks rangers and the police makes sad reading and is evidence of the blatant abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe.
“It was only two days ago that Africa commemorated Africa Human Rights Day yet common villagers continue to have their right to justice violated,” the organisation said.
“Laws of natural justice dictate that an individual is innocent until proven guilty.
“For a man as old as Zondo to be made to squat on top of a brazier is not only dehumanising but exposes the callousness of Zimparks rangers and the police.
“It is Bulawayo Agenda’s submission that Zimparks and the police should conduct proper investigations and prosecute offenders than to subject villagers to primitive torture tactics.”