Parliament should quiz Ministers of Home Affairs, Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs over police brutality- Zimbabwe Civil Societies

Report By Lovemore Lubinda

Civil society organisations in Zimbabwe have come together, called for the Ministers of Home Affairs(Ignatius Chombo), Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs(Emmerson D Mnangagwa), to be summoned before Parliament on allegations of police cruelty against civilians.

Reading a joint press statement signed by various civic society organisations, in Harare on 26 July 2016, Zimbabwe Peace Project director Jestina Mukoko condemned the recently and countrywide use of violence on protesters by the state.

She said the two ministers should condemn the rough treatment of citizens by members of the police, and make public pronouncements on the illegality of police officers violating the rights of citizens when discharging their duties.  

“We call for Parliament through the portfolio and thematic committees on justice legal and parliamentary affairs, human rights, peace and security to call the Minister of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, and Commissioner General of Police to appear before Parliament and answer to allegations of police brutality against civilians, and misconduct in exercising their duties,” she said.

Mukoko said according to the Zimbabwean constitution, citizens reserve the right to petition and demonstrate against the government when not happy about the way in which they are ruled, adding that there were about 40 civilian protests across the country since January to July 2016, to which police responded with hostility.

She said in the border town of Beitbridge, dogs were let indiscriminately loose on ordinary civilians who tried to resist arrest. Mukoko added that some were dragged from their homes, and that most of the victims had no known political affiliations, nor were they part of the protests before being assaulted.

The joint statement reported that on 6 July 76 people in Bulawayo and 25 in Budiriro and Mufakose suburbs sustained various injuries from police attacks, adding that in Bulawayo again 43 children were affected by teargas fired by police into the Burombo residential flats. On 4 July 41 people sought medical attention after being assaulted by the riot police in Epworth, while on 2 July three young people were assaulted by the uniformed forces in Beitbridge while walking in the town at night.

The civil organisations said the arrested protesters that were attended to by the Zimbabawe Lawyers for Human Rights between 4 and 13 July included 165 from Harare, 107 Bulawayo, 30 Matabeleland south, and 24 Matabeleland North, among others. She said most of those injured in could not seek medical attention because of heavy police presence in the high density suburbs.

Mukoko said most of those arrested were charged with violating the provisions of Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act, 304 with public violence or inciting it, 22 with obstructing traffic, 16 under Public Order and Security Act, and one for attempting to overthrow the government.

The civil societies said for a solution to these challenges to be achieved, a holistic approach is needed in the full implementation of the constitution, restoration of rule of law, respect for basic rights and freedoms, and economic reforms that generate investor confidence, among others.

The organisations called the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to investigation the incidences of human rights abuse that have occurred during the protests by various citizens of Zimbabwe, and where perpetrators are identified be condemned, and made to face the law; And to secure appropriate public redress to victims of police brutality including recommending the prosecution of the offending officers.  

These calls came after traders in Beitbridge protested over a policy enacted by the government (Statutory Instrument 64 of 2016) to restrict the importation of certain foodstuff from South Africa, to protect local industries. The protests triggered similar ones in Harare, where commuter omnibus operators demonstrated against the police for allegedly mounting too many roadblocks, extortion, and soliciting for bribes.