Zimbabwe freelancer Stanley Karombo is recovering in hospital after
being assaulted while he was in police hands for three days, writes
He was freed from Harare Central Police station on Monday after spending three nights in custody.
Speaking from his hospital bed at the Counselling Service Unit in Harare, Karombo is still shaken. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI donÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t want to see darkness. It feels as if something is comingÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Karombo, a former Wits University journalism student, went to the Gwanzura Stadium in Harare on April 18 where Robert Mugabe was addressing a crowd. Police members saw him with his audio recorder and notebook and pounced on him. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI pulled out my Wits student card and told them IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m not a journalist, IÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m just a student.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
He was dragged to a small room at the bottom of the stadium where they assaulted him. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey thought I was sending video footage to America. They accused me of being a spy for the MDC sending information to western countries,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
The police and ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œother men came and wentÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â, beating him continuously throughout the day, he recounts. Around 9pm they covered his head and took him to his house where they ransacked his room. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey wanted to know where I got the money to study at Wits,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â said Karombo.
ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI must have lost consciousness some time after that. When I woke up the next morning I was in police cells,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he recalls. He was only released on Monday when the police failed to find sufficient evidence to charge him. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThey released me because they thought I was a student, but they said if further investigation tells them something else, theyÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ll take me back,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said.
He was fined for "behaviour likely to cause public disorderÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Karombo was first taken to the Trauma Clinic in Harare, but was later moved to the Counselling Services Unit. He has suffered severe damage to the soft tissue on his legs. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œIÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢m very dizzy because they also broke my specs,ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â he said. ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œI canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t go home, because they will be waiting for me. I canÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t even speak to anybody at home.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
It was first feared Karombo was being held by government agents in Zimbabwe as he had not been seen since April 15 at a strike organised by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Ntando Ncube, a member of the Exiled Journalists of Zimbabwe Association, said, ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe government has bastardised and criminalised media freedom. There is no freedom in Zimbabwe.ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â
Karombo was also arrested in 2003 in Zimbabwe under the AIPPA for allegedly practicing journalism without accreditation. When he failed to produce his documentation – he was not accredited at the time – he was assaulted by the police, but was later released on bail.