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A Step Back From the Abyss:

Justice for Miss Muffet

Cathy Buckle

This week I asked a friend who had returned to the country after living in the diaspora for a couple of years if she was still glad to be home. She replied: “I have had absolutely no regrets about returning to Zimbabwe, it’s the best thing I have done for a long time (though I am sure that not everyone thinks that!)”

I first met Meryl Harrison six years ago, just when she was preparing to leave Zimbabwe. Meryl had risked her life time and time again rescuing the thousands of animals stranded on invaded farms and stuck in the middle of Zimbabwe’s mayhem. Meryl’s courage and bravery then put most of us to shame and we watched in awe at what one totally determined and dedicated woman could achieve.

Leaving Zimbabwe wasn’t what Meryl wanted to do but was something that a quarter of our population had to do, for all sorts of reasons, as the country collapsed into economic and political mayhem. Coming back to Zimbabwe is a huge decision but for Meryl it was right as it gave her back the ability to really make a difference.

Meryl told me this week about a dog called Miss Muffet, the reason her return to Zimbabwe might not be such a popular move.

Miss Muffet was a three month old Labrador puppy, axed to death one night in late February. She was one of three dogs sleeping in the garage of a house in Penhalonga during an invasion of the farm by a mob of 21. Sleeping alongside Miss Muffet at the time were a female Rottweiler which was stabbed in the spine, and a male Labrador which was axed three times in the head by the invaders.

Meryl got involved in her capacity with a private animal welfare organization (VAWZ) and she was determined to see justice. Thanks to swift action and skilled expertise of a vet in Mutare, the Rottweiler and adult Labrador were saved. Tragically for Miss Muffet, it was too late for intervention.

From that point on everything about this familiar and tragic story was different.

Meryl described how the Police in Penhalonga acted very swiftly and arrested the invaders. They said the accused were to be charged with Public Violence but Meryl and her colleagues weren’t satisfied. A long meeting followed and it was eventually agreed that the accused would also be charged under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.

Then followed eight court appearances, four subpoenas and hundreds of kilometres of travelling between Harare and Mutare. In the VAWZ docket for the court, Meryl included a photograph of a 3 month old Labrador puppy. She told me she did this: “so that the Magistrate could see that the puppy would have been absolutely no threat to anyone - at that age, they think the whole world is their friend!”

The case finally went to trial a couple of weeks ago and nine of the twenty accused, who were the main perpetrators of the attack on the dogs, pleaded guilty. In mitigation the accused apologized for killing the puppy and offered to replace it. They were sentenced to 18 months in prison, 1 year of which was suspended and the remaining 6 months made up of each being given 140 hours of community service.

For Meryl, seeing justice being done for Miss Muffet, a Rottweiler and a Labrador makes all the effort, frustration and grit worthwhile. There are many people, like Meryl, and many organisations, like VAWZ, working tirelessly out of the spotlight, to bring Zimbabwe back from darkness. In them is our hope.

Until next time, thanks for reading,

love cathy
30 July 2011

Copyright: Cathy Buckle

Page updated on August 5, 2011 TOP