By Professor Matodzi
Harare, July 01, 2015 – Zimbabwe’s precarious human rights record sunk to a new low on Tuesday after two juveniles sued two of President Robert Mugabe’s lieutenants for $6 000 for damages suffered from an unprecedented violation of their rights.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Tuesday disclosed that Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and the Officer In charge of Triangle Police Station had been dragged to court by two juveniles Precious Mapanzure aged one year-old and 10 year-old Prince Chikore to stand trial for the violation of several of their rights which were trampled upon when the top government officials’ subordinates unleashed a wave of terror at Chingwizi Transit Camp in Masvingo province in August last year.
In August last year villagers fought running battles with some police officers who tried to forcibly evict them from the Chingwizi holding camp to Nuanetsi Ranch in Masvingo province. The police arrested and detained about 30 villagers whom they charged with committing public violence in contravention of Section 36 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after they accused them of masterminding the assault of law enforcement agents and burnt police vehicles and rifles.
But Prince and Precious have placed the spotlight on the country’s human rights record after they filed summons at Chiredzi Magistrates Court demanding payment of damages amounting to $3 000 each for the violation of their rights.
Prince, who is represented by her guardian Zulu Jinya is demanding payment of $3 000 from Mohadi, Chihuri and the Officer In Charge of Triangle Police Station whom the juvenile accuses of authorising the deployment of some police officers, who set dogs on him when they indiscriminately arrested and severely assaulted some Chingwizi Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in August 2014.
On Tuesday, the Chiredzi Magistrates Court heard that police officers who launched an indiscriminate blitz on Chingwizi Transit Camp violated Prince’s constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when they set dogs on him resulting in him sustaining some injuries of which he had to travel to Harare to receive medical treatment. The police officers also forced Prince to “mourn” over the burnt shell of a police vehicle.
Prince charged that he suffered damages amounting to $3 000 as a result of the violation of his fundamental rights. The juvenile’s uncle, Zulu Jinya is also suing for unlawful arrest, illegal detention and assault.
In another summons filed by the juveniles’ lawyers Blessing Nyamaropa and Peggy Tavagadza of ZLHR, Precious, through her 40 year-old mother Ellen Muteiwa, is also suing Mohadi, Chihuri and the Officer In Charge of Triangle Police Station for $3 000 for deprivation of her fundamental rights. According to summons filed at Chiredzi Magistrates Court, Precious is demanding payment of $3 000 as damages for the violation of her right to health care as enshrined in section 76 of the Constitution and her right to food and water as guaranteed in section 77 of the Constitution which she was denied at the time when police officers arrested and detained her mother. Precious developed thrush, a fungal infection and diaper rash after she spent 48 hours while wearing wet diapers as her mother was denied access to a mobile phone to request for the supply of diapers from home. Precious was also denied an opportunity to breast feed while she was in police custody together with her mother.
Prince and Precious are part of 34 IDPs who have sued Chihuri and Mohadi for violation of their rights during the dragnet arrest of villagers last year.
The arrest of the villagers last August attracted local, regional and international condemnation including from ZLHR which has over the years defended poorer members of society who would otherwise not afford legal representation in the absence of meaningful legal aid schemes in the southern African country after it was revealed in court that the IDPs had been subjected to torture and other cruel, degrading and other inhuman treatment by the police who detained them while other villagers were detained with their children.
Mugabe’s governing Zanu(PF) party has for several years been accused by local human rights groups and western governments of rigging elections and assaulting, torturing and abducting political opponents in a bid to keep public discontent in check in the face of a worsening economic crisis.
But Mugabe’s administration often dismisses such criticism as part of a western-orchestrated attempt to tarnish the image of the troubled southern African nation.