By Tarisai Machakaire
Hardly a day after apologising for the killings of innocent people during Thursday’s protests over the kombi ban and illegal vending in the city, police were yesterday back in the public spotlight after they were accused of severely assaulting and torturing suspects in their custody.
Four men — accused of stoning Harare Central Police Station during the confrontation in the capital — gave a chilling account of how they were savagely beaten by police officers leading to one of their co-accused being admitted at hospital with serious injuries.
The four Gibson Kataruware, 38, Denis Kondo, 29, Prince Beni, 23, and Emmanuel Muzariri, 22, appeared before Harare magistrate Nomsa Sabarauta charged with public violence yesterday.
Thursday’s fierce clashes between police and kombi crews as well as vendors were sparked by an ill-advised ban on commuter omnibuses and informal traders operating in the Central Business District (CBD).
Government has blamed the Harare City Council for the ban although Local Government minister July Moyo, who shifted blame to the local municipality late Thursday, had in January warned that he would descend on kombis and informal traders with the help of the military.
Daily News vendor, Nhamo Zepheniah, was one of two people killed by police on Thursday as he made his way home.
During their initial court appearance at the Harare Magistrate’s Court yesterday‚ the four men alleged they endured various forms of torture, including beatings with a variety of instruments which included batons, booted feet, wooden planks, and falanga (beatings on the bottom of the feet).
As a result, they had soft-tissue injuries, concussions, severe bruising and lacerations.
“The first accused person is battling for his life in hospital as we speak and the rest of the accused persons will state that they were brutally assaulted by arresting details with clenched fists and unknown objects.
“Kataruware’s right ear is no longer functional and he sustained visible baton scars on his back and buttocks. As we speak, Kondo is bleeding on one of his legs and up to now the accused persons are still wondering why they were subjected to such gross inhuman treatment,” the group’s lawyer Bothwell Ndlovu said.
Muzariri had a deep fresh cut with clotted blood on his forehead sustained during the attack.
Ndlovu said his clients had been denied access to medical attention in breach of provisions of the Constitution.
Prosecutor Idah Maromo advised the court that bail was opposed.
Their bail application will be heard tomorrow before magistrate Rumbidzayi Mugwagwa.
According to State papers, on February 23, constables Makumikre, Mhundwa, Mpofu and Chisango were on duty at Harare Central Police Station manning the pedestrians’ gate.
The court heard that Agogo, Kataruware, Kondo, Beni, Muzariri and their accomplices, who are still at large, gathered at Harare Central charge office singing and tried to force their way in.
It was alleged that they also influenced passers-by to join in the melee.
Agogo allegedly forced his way through the police cordon into the station but was barred from entering the charge office by police officers who were manning it.
The court heard that Agogo reportedly picked stones from a flower bed and threw them at police officers, consequently shattering windows at the charge office main entrance.
Agogo was apprehended but his accomplices continued to throw stones into the offices and at a parked Land Rover Defender vehicle which belonged to the Police Reaction Group.
Katuruwari, Kondo, Beni and Muzariri were later apprehended after a police chase. The State intends to bring stones that were collected after the incident as evidence in court.
The total value of damage is yet to be established.
Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga told journalists on Friday that three police officers were seriously injured and three police cars were badly damaged in violent clashes that followed the shooting.
He also regretted the shootings and apologised for the loss of lives as a result, promising a full-scale investigation into what triggered the incidents. Daily News