File picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Harare ‑ The High Court of Zimbabwe on Friday ordered the government to pay US$150 000 (about R2.2 million) in compensation to , a pro-democracy campaigner, who was kidnapped by State security agents in 2008.

In a deed of settlement endorsed by the High Court, the State will pay US$100 000 (about R1.4 million) to Mukoko, a former news anchor on State broadcaster ZBC-TV, in respect of her claims while a further US$50 000 (about R735 000) will be paid as a contribution towards her legal costs.

The total payment must be made by October 31.

The Zimbabwean government had in 2016 offered to pay US$30 000 (about R440 000) as compensation to the prominent human rights defender seven years after she was abducted from her home in Norton, a small town 40km west of Harare, but she rejected the amount on the basis that the case the State was relying on merely involved an unlawful arrest and detention and did not involve criminal abduction and torture.

Mukoko was abducted by unidentified armed men from her home on December 3, 2008 and her whereabouts, together with two Zimbabwe Peace Project employees, Broderick Takawira and Pascal Gonzo, who were also abducted later in December the same year, remained unknown until December 24, 2008, when they first appeared before the Harare Magistrates’ Court after weeks of being held incommunicado and being tortured.

When she appeared in court, Mukoko was accused by the government of plotting to topple then President Robert Mugabe’s administration through recruiting people to undergo military training in neighbouring Botswana.

After her release from a torturous three months stay in prison, Mukoko, with the assistance of Beatrice Mtetwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, took legal action against the State.

In September 2009, the Supreme Court granted a permanent stay of prosecution in favour of Mukoko due to the violation of several of her fundamental rights by State security agents, as she had been subjected to torture and inhumane and degrading treatment, including simulated drowning, being locked in a freezer as well as being subjected to physical assaults, as her tormentors tried to force her to confess to plotting to overthrow Mugabe’s government.

Commenting on her victory, Mukoko said as much as the outcome would not make up for the scars inflicted on her, “it would contribute to the healing process, while emboldening all those who may still be pursuing justice against the excesses of the State, including those who suffered a similar fate like mine, who are yet to get justice”.

“I am aware, others that were abducted and disappeared like me, have had their cases stagnant with not much progress as the files are said to have been sitting in one office for many, many years. I take that again, many, many years!” she said.

“The patrimonial settlement cannot atone for the trauma and suffering that I suffered and went through at the hands of the State security agents, who were ruthless, merciless and very evil.

“It will not make up for lost time as my liberty and all other human rights accorded to me by virtue of my being human was unjustifiably curtailed nor will it provide solace for my traumatised family ‑ my mother, son, brothers, sisters in law, extended family, friends and other peace-loving citizens.”

African News Agency (ANA)