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Lockdown Cowdray Park police assault case postponed

By Bruce Ndlovu

The case of six police officers charged with assaulting two women in Cowdray Park in Bulawayo was not heard yesterday after it was decided that further investigations should be carried out on the matter before the suspects are taken to court.

The two women who were allegedly beaten by police
The two women who were allegedly beaten by police

The six, arrested on Friday, were supposed to appear at the West Commonage Magistrate’s court for the alleged brutal assault of two siblings from Cowdray Park on 16 April.

The victims claimed police said they arrested them for violating the national lockdown regulations meant to combat the spread of the coronavirus by moving out of their home.

The two had reportedly gone to buy food at a local supermarket before they were allegedly arrested by three officers that picked them out from a queue and cuffed their hands behind their backs.

They were then allegedly force-marched, in between severe beatings and tribally charged insults, through a bushy pathway leading to Cowdray Park Police Base.

At the police station, they alleged that they were further subjected to abuse by officers who took turns to assault them, leading to severe injuries.

The accused police officers are Simbarashe Bvekwa, Tichaona Zariro, Patson Gumoreyi, Elizabeth Denhere, Zibusiso Masuku and Christabel Munyondo.

The official in charge of Public Prosecutions at the West Commonage Magistrate’s Court, Mr Nyasha Katurura, confirmed that the six police officers would appear at a date to be advised, as there were contradictions between the victim’s accounts and the evidence brought before the court.

“The case has been referred for further investigation. The police are yet to hold an identification parade. The victims had said two people assaulted them but six people were presented to us today. So, there is a need for further investigation,” he said.

The legal representative of the two women, Mr Nqobani Sithole of Ncube Attorneys, said they were worried about the manner in which investigations had been carried out.

“The two women who are complainants in this matter were picked up for whatever offence. The allegations are that they were then assaulted by two officers and as things stand, the investigations that have been done are shoddy to say the least.

The six officers that have been brought here have not been identified by the complainants so whoever brought these officers here, we don’t know on what basis were they brought to court. Surely the complainants have not been given opportunity to identify them,” said Mr Sithole.

Mr Sithole said there was also a possible case of conflict of interest, as one of the investigating officers was also a person of interest in the ongoing legal action.

“One thing that is striking is that there is a Superintendent (name supplied) who is involved, it appears there is a senior officer who was part of the District Reactive Group and that officer is the one who is directing the investigation and surely it is a misnomer to have someone who is potentially supposed to be investigated being the one directing investigations.

“So, the investigations have been shoddy to say the least. For example, there is an entry in the docket where the Assistant Inspector was directed by the Chief Inspector to do an identification parade but he has not done so because the Superintendent has directed him to take the docket as it is to court.

“There is nothing that has been brought here save to say it has been a sheer waste of time. So, we have spoken with the National Prosecuting Authority that further investigations be done and the complainants be given further opportunity to identify the accused persons,” he said.

Representing the six officers, Nkosiyabo Sibanda of Tanaka Law Chambers said the State was only trying to delay the inevitable as further investigations would only provide the same information thereby acquitting the six accused.

“The matter is now pending before the courts so its sub judice so I cannot go into detail about the case. I can only tell you what has happened here today only.

“The position with regards to the females that have been assaulted by members of the police is that the matter has been stood down, or rather postponed, for further investigations as we were told.

“As the legal representatives of the accused persons we feel like the investigations will not yield anything other than what is already known to us,” said Mr Sibanda. Sunday News