Harare, July 21, 2014 – A man brutalised while in police custody could soon be having his payback after the State admitted to police torture.
Accused of stealing company property, Mercedes Nyamande was brutally assaulted by three officers at Harare Central Police Station in a bid to force a confession in February this year.
But intervention by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has forced the State to own up to the torture and agree to pay for the actions of three “wild” police officers.
The Civil Division of the Attorney General’s Office has written to ZLHR admitting that Nyamande was indeed assaulted while in police custody.
Nyamande, through ZLHR lawyer Kennedy Masiye, is demanding $15 000 for assault, nervous shock and pain suffering, $5 000 for contumelia and $10 000 for unlawful arrest and detention.
The AG’s office however denies allegations of unlawful arrest and detention and is only willing to negotiate damages for assault.
“Our client admits liability in so far as the assault perpetrated upon our client is concerned. However please take note that our client denies liability for unlawful arrest and detention on the basis that there was reasonable suspicion of theft of BOC gases and carrying a hazardous substance, the later being under investigation,” wrote an officer signed as T S Musangwa, acting for the director Civil Division.
“In the following concessions, our client is willing to settle the matter out of court on the following condition-
(i) That your client abandons the unlawful arrest and detention claim
(ii) that we quantify damages that are commensurate to the assault that was perpetrated upon your client
“If your client is amenable to an out of court settlement on the proposed terms it might be necessary that we have a meeting where we will agree on the amount payable to your client as damages for the assaults as we are of the perceived view that the $20 000 that your client had claimed in the summons is unprecedented in light of the damages that have been awarded by the courts under similar circumstances,” added Musangwa.
Nyamande cited the Minister of Home Affairs Kembo Mohadi, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and detectives identified as Masvimbo, Charuma and Zinyama as defendants. Masvimbo, Charuma and Zinyama are the ones who tortured Nyamande. Masiye is consulting his client, whom he says suffered severely from the ordeal. Nyamande was picked from his house in Glen Norah on 7 February to assist investigations of a stolen gas bottle and taken to Harare Central Police Station’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
“Upon arriving at the police station he was shocked when Detective Masvimbo started to wildly assault him with open palms and clutched fists before he was handcuffed his hands and his legs pinned on top of the handcuffed hands. Detective Masvimbo continued with the assaults and intensified the attack on our client by sticking him several times with a thick wooden log and electricity cables all over the body,” said Masiye.
He added: “Due to the assault our client sustained deep scares and he bled profusely to such an extent that he almost passed out.
A medical report by Dr N. E. Sunhuwa at Harare Hospital clearly states that the injuries sustained by our client are severe and he is likely to suffer permanent injuries.”
Nyamande was denied medical treatment and was not allowed to call his relatives about the arrest, according to Masiye.
“Further, whilst in the holding cells he was not given any food forcing him starve the whole night and in pain from the wounds he had suffered,” added the human rights lawyer.
Masiye said the rights of Nyamande were violated by the police’s arbitrary and wrongful arrest. This is not the first time that the State and police officers have been forced to pay victims of torture.
Recently, two Nyanga Police Station-based officers – only identified as Kapfunde and Kambanje – were ordered to pay $3 000 in damages for torturing hotel security guard Tsitsi Chimhutu when they were investigating a break in at Montclair Hotel last year.
Chimhutu was tortured while police trying to induce a confession in a case of $2 500 which had gone missing.
Mutare Magistrate Yeukai Chigodora awarded $3 000 as delictual damages to Chimhutu – who can no longer carry her less than two-year-old baby as her back was damaged during the torture – described her treatment by Kapfunde and Kambanje as “inhuman and degrading”.
The Legal Monitor.