Claims of torture in Zimbabwe

By , Africa bureau chief

Reporters on the Job: How do you know if someone is telling you the truth?

This is always the big question for a reporter who hasn’t actually witnessed an event, and I can assure you I would never want to witness the torture that Bothwell Pasipamire, a Zimbabwe opposition party member, described to me during an interview at a Johannesburg, South Africa, hotel Tuesday.

But a reporter can compare the stories of different eyewitnesses to see if they match, and in this case, the testimonies of Mr. Pasipamire and other Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) abductees taken in Zimbabwe at the same time match up very well.

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Both Pasipamire and Zimbabwe Peace Project founder Jestina Mukoko say they were taken late at night, they were both beaten on their feet, and they were both asked to sign false confessions.

But ultimately, what persuaded me that Pasipamire was the real thing was his personal revulsion and emotion at the acts of torture – including sexual torture – that had been committed against him. At points he would stop and shake his head as if unable to find words to describe his feelings. The horror of it was still too fresh.

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