Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Human rights groups slam police brutality

By Blessings Mashaya

Rights groups and political analysts have expressed outrage over the savage attacks on vendors and ordinary citizens by police in its on-going blitz against vending in Harare’s central business district (CBD) and its precincts.

Police confiscate wares from vendors in the latest blitz on illegal vending on Harare’s streets
Police confiscate wares from vendors in the latest blitz on illegal vending on Harare’s streets

This comes as pressure is mounting on government to set up an independent body to investigate complaints against members of the security forces.

Government welcomes the decision to decongest Harare’s CBD and drive vendors off the streets in the wake of a deadly cholera outbreak, has been sullied by some rogue police officers who ran amok at the weekend, indiscriminately assaulting people, without any slight form of provocation.

Yesterday rights groups said the police conduct was “barbaric” and unconstitutional.

“The police are not protecting citizens as required by the Constitution. The only institution with the right to punish the citizens if they are found guilty is the court. I don’t know where the police are getting this (brutal attacks on people).

“They must use minimum force and when I say minimum force it must not mean beating people, they must use other ways not to brutalise people.

“It’s very illegal and unconstitutional. I don’t know who taught them to use force, it’s a culture that we need to desist from, it’s barbaric and unconstitutional” said Okay Machisa, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) executive director.

The Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (Viset) said it was wrong for police to beat up vendors as this was against the law and spirit of building trust with ordinary citizens.

“The use of force to remove vendors is both illegal and inhumane.

“As Viset we believe in dialogue. We are convinced that constructive engagement is the panacea to the challenges faced by the informal sector

“The government must deal with the real causes of #Cholera such as provision of safe and potable water. Blaming vendors won’t ameliorate the morass,” it said.

Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme warned that the police heavy-handed approach had the potential to create resistance and violence by affected groups.

“There is no need for police on the streets and for vendors to be driven out of the streets by police.

“There is no evidence linking vending… to cholera in Glen View and Budiriro that is being caused by broken down water and sewer systems.

“The heavy-handed police responses breed resistance and more violence yet they don’t cure the scourge of unemployment which is creating vendors.

“This will backfire and breeds violent extremism as people will feel hopeless after the only means of survival they have is taken away by State violence.

“Once violent extremism begins all little gains (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s administration has registered will be reversed,” Saungweme warned.

Last week, Mnangagwa swore in a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violence and death of civillians who were killed when the army used live ammunition to break ugly demonstrations in Harare on August 1.

But before the Commission had started its work, riot police officers went on a rampage at the weekend with some rogue officers savagely assaulting revellers at nightclubs and harassing ordinary people going about their business in the CBD.

The weekend’s brutal acts by law enforcement agents went against public pronouncements of both Mnangagwa and new police commissioner general Godwin Matanga — who have preached messages of peace and a new dispensation in the country.

Police and their municipal counterparts have launched a combined blitz on vendors following the deadly outbreak of cholera which has so far killed 32 people and left thousands needing treatment.

Meanwhile, legal watchdog, Veritas, has revived its attempts to have government set up an independent body to investigate complaints against members of the security forces, in line with the new Constitution which Zimbabweans authored and adopted in 2013.

“Section 210 of the Constitution has still not been implemented over five years after the main parts of the Constitution came into force on August 22, 2013.

“The section provides for setting up an independent body to receive and investigate complaints against the security services (i.e. the Police Service, the Defence Forces, the State intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service).

“In the interests of the public, and to protect their own reputation, it is important for these complaints to be investigated fully and impartially by an independent body,” Veritas said in a statement.

The legal watchdog said it had previously tried to push the government to implement section 210 but with little success. DailyNews