Harare, October 21, 2013 – The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) could pay dearly for its unprofessional conduct after some political and human rights activists who were recently acquitted for murdering a police officer sued Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri for damages suffered as a result of their unlawful arrest, detention and prosecution.
The ZRP 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 Inspector Petros 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.
But 21 of the activists including human rights campaigner Cynthia Manjoro were acquitted by High Court judge Justice Chinembiri Bhunu last month after determining that the State had failed to prove a prima face case against them.
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, Justice Bhunu criticized ZRP 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.
Six of the political and human rights activists have now petitioned Chihuri and Mohadi under whose ministry the ZRP falls, demanding compensation for unlawful arrest, incarceration, pain and suffering and loss of income for the period that they were under persecution.
“His reputation has been soiled as for many months his name was associated with the murder of a police officer. His subsequent acquittal does not negate the wrong done to his good name,” reads part of the letter written to Chihuri by Bellinda Chinowawa from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights on behalf of Nyamadzawo Gapare, one of the activists who was dismissed from his job as a result of the long incarceration.
For unlawful arrest, each activist is demanding payment of $15 000, $10 000 for unlawful detention, $30 000 for pain and suffering and $10 000 for contumelia, which is a deliberately offensive act.
Other activists such as Tendai Chinyama and Francis Vambai charge that their families have been left destitute after losing their jobs.
Seven of the campaigners including Tungamirai Madzokere, Yvonne Musarurwa, Last Maengahama, Lazaraus Maengahama were placed on their defence after Justice Bhunu determined that the State had established a prima facie case against them and their trial will continue at a date to be advised while one of them Rebecca Mafikeni died while in prison detention at Parirenyatwa hospital where he had been admitted after falling ill while at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.