Harare, February 18, 2014 – Zimbabwean police have pledged to institute investigations into the alleged ill-treatment and assault of human and political rights activists who were subjected to the inhumane treatment by the country’s law enforcement agents in 2011.
The political and human rights activists were ill-treated three years ago when they were arrested by the police for allegedly murdering a police officer Inspector Petros Mutedza. The police assaulted and tortured them as they sought to induce confessions from the activists to admit to murdering the police officer.
But 21 out of the 29 activists were acquitted late last year by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu after determining that the State had failed to prove a prima face case against them. Out of the 21, six including prominent human rights campaigner Cynthia Manjoro are demanding compensation from the Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri for unlawful arrest, incarceration, pain and suffering and loss of income for the period that they were under persecution.
In a letter addressed to the activist’s lawyer Bellinda Chinowawa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Chihuri’s representative only identified as Staff Inspector Sithole advised that the police will furnish the lawyers with a response after completing the probe.
“Investigations into the allegations raised therein are being instituted. The Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office will communicate our attitude towards your claim in due course,” reads part of the letter from Chihuri.
Police arrested the activists in 2011 and charged them with contravening Section 47 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23 for allegedly murdering Mutedza at a bar in Harare’s high density suburb of Glen View. Alternatively, the residents were also charged with committing public violence in contravention of Section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter 9:23.
During the high profile trial which dragged on for more than two years, prosecutors alleged that the activists chanted MDC-T party slogans, denounced the police and threw stones, empty beer bottles, steel stool frames and other missiles at six uniformed police officers resulting in the death of Inspector Mutedza.
Besides Manjoro, the other activists include Solomon Madzore, Stanford Maengahama, Stanford Mangwiro, Sydney Chiromo, Jeffias Moyo, Abina Rutsito, Tendayi Chinyama, Memory Ncube, Kerina Gweshe, Gabriel Shumba, Stefani Takaidzwa, Linda Musiyamhanje, Tafadzwa Billiat, Simon Mudimu, Zwelibanze Dube, Simon Mapanzure, Edwin Muingiri, Augustine Tengenyika, Francis Vambai and Nyamadzawo Gapara.
In acquitting the 21 activists, Justice Bhunu criticized police officers over their unprofessional conduct in the arrest and detention of the human rights and political campaigners as they did not have credible evidence linking them to the commission of the offence. The judge said the police had arrested Manjoro as an inducement for her boyfriend to surrender himself to the police in connection with the commission of the offence.