On December 11, 2023, unidentified assailants abducted and tortured Valentine Ziko, a Harare Polytechnic College student and member of the Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), from Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT).
At the time of his abduction, Ziko was visiting CUT to assist with ZINASU’s campaign for an upcoming Student Representative Council (SRC) election, scheduled for December 13.
On the night of December 11, police raided CUT’s campus while students were outside campaigning for the SRC election. Amid the chaos that erupted, Ziko was blindfolded and brought to a car. According to Ziko, the assailants beat him in the car while they drove to an unknown location. Once they arrived, they forced Ziko to lie down, sprayed him with a hose, and then beat him again. During the assault, the attackers asked Ziko for information about his ZINASU colleagues and their whereabouts. They also asked him for information about the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Zimbabwe’s opposition political party, which has links with ZINASU. After the interrogation, the group left Ziko by a bridge, severely injured and without his phone, money, or possessions.
ZINASU and the CCC condemned the attack. In an interview with University World News, ZINASU spokesperson Lifeline Guta accused state forces of conducting the abduction, stating that “the law enforcement agents they [the government] send to the universities are the ones who are now abusing students so, basically, the state is involved vicariously.”
Kidnappings and assaults targeting government critics, including student leaders, political activists, and journalists, are common in Zimbabwe. The government has denied its involvement in the attacks and has alleged that a third party is attempting to damage the state’s reputation.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the abduction of a higher education student in apparent retaliation for their exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association. State authorities should take all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of scholars, students, and staff, including by investigating and holding perpetrators of such acts responsible, in line with international human rights standards. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, kidnappings that target student expression undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.