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Zimbabwe lawyers take on Chipangano thugs

A grouping of human rights lawyers on Tuesday mounted a constitutional challenge against the police practice of outsourcing torture by surrendering suspects whom they would have arrested to a notorious Zanu PF-aligned vigilante group, known as Chipangano.

In this picture from the Daily News members of the notorious Zanu PF Chipangano group can be seen assaulting an alleged MDC-T supporter during the opening of Parliament in Harare. (Picture by Annie Mpalume)
In this picture from the Daily News members of the notorious Zanu PF Chipangano group can be seen assaulting an alleged MDC-T supporter during the opening of Parliament in Harare. (Picture by Annie Mpalume)

Last month, police arrested two MDC-T youths Petros Makaza and Golden Nhika accusing them of stealing a soldier’s beret and mobile phone after a beer hall brawl in Epworth and surrendered them to a ZANU PF office in Harare’s volatile Mbare suburb, where they were assaulted and severely tortured.

In executing the torture, the Chipangano gang assaulted the Epworth residents with iron bars all over their bodies, under the soles of their feet and were periodically attacked with clenched fists and booted feet. The torture was so reckless, indiscriminate and sadistic to the point that Makaza and Nhika lost consciousness and bled profusely.

As a result of the torture, Makaza sustained serious injuries which included ruptured tendons, bruises and lacerations while Nhika sustained severe burns on his buttocks and still finds it hard to sit for long periods of time.

After the assault, the MDC youths, who are out of custody on $30 bail each were later taken to Mbare Police Station and Epworth Police Station from where they were brought to Harare Magistrates Court on a charge of committing robbery.

Disgusted by the blatant selective application of the law, human rights lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights filed an application for referral of the matter to the Supreme Court.

The application before Magistrate Jackie Munyonga wants the court to determine whether it is constitutionally permissible for the State to prosecute the duo where there has been a violation of their rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

In the application, Zhuwarara argued that the extensive torture at the hands of members of the vigilante group occurred with the acquiescence of the police who transported Makaza and Nhika from Epworth to Mbare, where they surrendered them to members of Chipangano who tortured them.

Chipangano is a shadowy group reportedly linked to Zanu PF and has caused a wave of terror in Harare, although the former ruling party has attempted to distance itself from the notorious group.

According to Zhuwarara, Makaza and Nhika’s fundamental right to protection from inhuman treatment as enshrined in Section 15 of the Constitution was contravened when the police surrendered the MDC youths, who were in their custody to Chipangano, who in turn tortured them in order to solicit a false confession.

In addition, the police did not make any arrests, enquiries or investigations into the Epworth residents’ injuries confirming that torture occurred with the consent and knowledge of the police.

Zhuwarara charged that the MDC youths’ fundamental right to a fair trial as enshrined in Section 18 of the Constitution is likely to be infringed if the State is allowed to proceed to prosecute them.

He contended that after the torture of the Epworth residents there can be no legitimate prosecution that can be conducted without further violating their rights.

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