Harare, April 24, 2014 – Human rights lawyers say police officers who acted as catalysts for the death of a minor in Tuesday’s tragic traffic accident must be held accountable for their actions.
Nail Tanatswa Mutyora, who was aged three years, died on Tuesday at a Harare clinic after sustaining serious head injuries when he was knocked down by a commuter omnibus driver who was fleeing away from a “menacing police officer” as law enforcement agents gave chase to the driver identified as Kusotera.
In a statement, the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) condemned the actions of the police and the driver of the commuter omnibus for causing the death of Tanatswa.
“ZLHR notes with great concern the growing number of incidents whereby members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have been the catalyst or cause of a number of traffic accidents across the country. The incidents seem to happen when the police are either attempting to arrest or pursue commuter omnibuses that service a greater percentage of commuters in Zimbabwe, ZLHR said in a statement seen by Radio VOP.
“ZLHR condemns any form of reckless driving and any breach of traffic laws by public transporters that is being witnessed on the roads of Zimbabwe. There is a positive duty on the drivers of commuter omnibuses to respect the laws of the land and respect lives of other road users. Where such duty is not upheld it is indeed the constitutional duty of the police to intervene and protect other road and innocent bystanders. However the police are equally obliged by law to intervene in such circumstances in a reasonable manner that does not lead to harmful effects extending to innocent bystanders.
It is trite that the police in the performance of their duties must respect and protect human dignity, maintain and protect the human rights of all persons,” ZLHR added.
The country’s leading legal defence group said the loss of the promising and precious life of Tanatswa should point towards a revision of police procedures when they pursue traffic offenders or when setting up roadblocks.
ZLHR called upon Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi to investigate and sanction police officers found to be engaging in the catastrophic and reckless pursuits with commuter omnibus drivers.
“Thus far, they have failed in their obligation and can be held to account if the situation is not immediately and publicly addressed,” ZLHR said.
In March, ZLHR sent a notice of intention to sue the police after some Bulawayo residence were injured after a commuter omnibus driver was involved in an accident while running away from the police who threw spikes in front of the moving commuter omnibus.
Meanwhile, the ZRP on Thursday denied liability for the death of Tanatswa and insisted that no police officer was involved in the accident that claimed the life of the three year old boy.
“Whilst the ZRP regret the loss of innocent life, we are demanding Commuter Omnibus drivers not to flee from the police and observe the laws of the country. It is disturbing that journalists often abuse their journalistic privileges and attack law enforcement agents on issues that police are not responsible for. We wonder why such journalists are not interrogating the unruly behaviour of the commuter omnibus drivers…..We cannot have a lawless country where commuter omnibus drivers can flout rules and regulations and in turn get accolades from the media,” reads part of a statement issued by police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba.