Zimbabwean riot police tear-gas students

November 10, 1999

HARARE — Riot police used batons and tear gas to disperse scores of students protesting against delays in the disbursement of their allocations at the University of Zimbabwe on October 19. Large boulders and concrete slabs were used to set up barricades on campus roads, and lawns were set on fire across the grounds.

Sindiso Mazibisa, spokesperson for the Students' Executive Council, explained that the students had not received their funds since the start of the semester in September. "For five weeks students have not had money for food, for transport and books ... [They] cannot survive."

The demonstrations led to clashes between the students and riot police, who had sealed off the campus to prevent the students from moving into the city. Three arrested students were allegedly tortured. A student, Tichaona Chirasa, explained they were picked up at random by the campus security officers and were tortured separately and systematically until midnight the day after the demonstration.

The students claimed that the security officers demanded that they explain why they had been demonstrating and divulge the strategies being planned by the Students' Executive Council.

"They were beating me and made me do exercises such as press-ups and accused me of having attended an extraordinary meeting organised by the executive council. They actually forced me to write a report and sign that I had given the information freely", said Chirasa.

He said that at one point the security officers placed drugs in his pocket and threatened to file drug possession charges against him if he failed to sign the report.

The Students' Executive Council secretary-general, Jacob Mafumira, commented: "We were shocked that people could use such barbaric methods to extract information. There was no need to torture anyone to get the reasons why we are demonstrating. Students need their money because they are starving."

Unrest at Zimbabwe's main university has been frequent, leading to a closure of the institution last year.

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