On 26 June every year, the world commemorates International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. ZimRights Member, Sheila Chisirimunhu shares how she was tortured for simply asking for a living wage. She speaks about her experience at Mutimurefu Prison and months later after prison, she yearns for healing.
It was the desire to ensure that Rural teachers work for a living wage that resulted in my arrest. Who would have thought that simply asking for a living wage 40 years after Independence would be a crime?
Yes, simply asking my employer, that as a teacher, I get paid a wage which will enable me to send my children to school, buy the basics and being able to buy clothes that I can wear to work.
My name is Sheila Chisirimunhu. I am the Provincial Gender Secretary for Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Artuz) Masvingo province.
My nightmare started on 22 June 2020. For demonstrating against low teacher’s salaries at Masvingo District Education Offices, I was arrested and charged for inciting public violence
I was tortured by the police for participating in a peaceful demonstration demanding the restoration of our stolen salaries according to SI 65. Demonstrating and petitioning is guaranteed in our constitution.
From June up to the 18th of December I was made to attend court fortnightly this actually drained me psychologically, emotionally and mostly economically as I had to travel paying for transport in USD while I am paid in the valueless RTGs dollars.
I was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison. I stayed at Mutimurefu prison for 18 days. Yes 18 days for just asking from my employer to pay me enough money to get me by, off course, I just need the basics and not the luxury of seeing the sun set while in Malilangwe like our Minister of Finance.
At Mutimurefu, I was subjected to untold human torture. I lost a total of 13 kgs in 18 days…. thus, almost loosing near a kg a day. Through the work of the human rights lawyers from ZLHR I was granted bail, pending appeal.
Though I am on bail I feel I am not safe, I cannot even plan ahead I feel like an axe is still hanging over my head. This is also cause me a lot of financial distress as part of the conditions for bail is that I report at the police.
As we commemorate International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, I call on government to eradicate torture. I pray that government rehabilitate victims of torture and that we have a country that will protect those that exercise their constitutional rights from being tortured for asking that which is enshrined in our constitution.
#I am a victim of torture