Matabeleland CSOs appeal to sexual assault victims to report their ordeals

By Makhosi Sibanda

The Matabeleland Collective, a network of civic society organisations and Churches based in Bulawayo, has launched a bid to ascertain the number of women and girls who were allegedly raped during a crackdown by security service agents on protesters linked to the anti-fuel price hike protests which turned violent a fortnight ago.

In an interview, Matabeleland Collective coordinator Jenni Williams told Amakhosikazi Media that the collective was appealing to women who experienced any form of sexual abuse and or harassment, at the hands of the country's security detail to approach them in order to pursue recourse properly.

We can not go by social media reports, such cases need to be verified and reported through proper channels, we know that it is not easy for rape victims to come out for many reasons the driving one being fear of victimization, said Williams.

She said there have to be real people behind the reports so they can facilitate a process of rehabilitation as well as demanding justice on behalf of the victims.

There are chances that victims could be scared to come out and this is the reason why we are appealing to members of the public to report such matters so that the people behind such actions can be brought to book, said Williams.

According to media reports, scores of women from Harare's Hopley area alleged that they were raped by soldiers during the ongoing crackdown against opposition activists linked to the protests. The clampdown has reportedly resulted in the killing of 12 people by security forces.

In separate interviews from their Harare hideout, the women,whose ordeal has been broadcast globally through international media, told horrifying accounts of their experiences at the hands of suspected soldiers.

This comes at a time when the military and the police have warned of rogue elements that were carrying out acts of terror in the name of the security forces.

Human rights organisations have expressed concern about the continuing military crackdown, which they maintain is mostly targeting people living in townships and activists.