Sunday, 24 May 2020

I PAID FINE UNDER DURESS : LOCKDOWN VIOLATOR


A BEITBRIDGE court has ordered police to refund a resident, who was coerced to pay a fine for violating the lockdown regulations, amid accusations of gross human rights violations by law enforcement agents in the border town.

Toyindepi Zhou, the resident magistrate, reversed Tafadzwa Mukutiri’s admission of guilt fine recorded under receipt number Z69 (j) 0296651 A on May 16.

This followed an application by Mukutiri’s lawyer Jabulani Mzinyathi of Garikayi and Company, who argued that the fine was paid under duress.

“We have just collected the refund through a bank transfer,” Mzinyathi said. “We are now waiting for our day in court because we have filed a report against the police who beat our client.”

Police have been accused of dragging their feet to charge officers identified as Sergeant Wafawanaka and Constable Shoko that were part of a “ruthless” team that allegedly brutalised Mukutiri.

The two could face another charge of attempting to defeat the ends of justice after concealing Mukutiri’s medical reports, forcing Beitbridge District Hospital to produce duplicates.

Wafawanaka on Wednesday did not answer his mobile phone when asked if he had offered Mukutiri US$800 to withdraw charges against them.

Mukutiri was three times this week summoned to Beitbridge Police Station by some senior police officers begging him to withdraw his complaints against the police.

“I accompanied him on two occasions and I think they are just delaying a matter that should simply be heard in a court,” Mzinyathi said.

“My client was bashed and justice must be allowed to take its course.”

Up to 20 Beitbridge residents have had police dogs set on them during the lockdown.

A source said police in the town were handling an average of one dog bite case a day since the lockdown began on March 30. 

A nurse at Beitbridge District Hospital said more than 20 people had been treated for police dog bites during the lockdown period where some police officers made cash demands in exchange for freedom.

Residents singled out a team of police officers, who drive a marked Beitbridge Urban Toyota truck usually carrying heavily armed officers and a dog handler.

“We are not sure if this is what they have been deployed to do, but if it is our government, which is authorising such human physical abuses, then we are on our own.

“We have no protection,” said Mukutiri, who sustained a deep cut on his head during an assault by the officers. He has since filed a report against them.

Matabeleland South police spokesman Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said he had not received any such reports during the lockdown.

Ndebele encouraged the public to approach officers-in-charge of the stations where the alleged abuse would have been committed saying necessary steps would be taken.

“We advise the public against paying fines where they disagree with police allegations so that matters are concluded in court,” he said.

“As of now we have not received any complaints of that nature from Beitbridge.”

A snap survey in the border town, however, showed there was widespread concern over the conduct of police officers enforcing the lockdown.

“We were stopped while driving home from the shops and bundled into a pick-up truck.

“I was beaten up with a thick stick and humiliated for asking the nature of my offence,” said Mukutiri arrested together with Cyprian Badze, Ronald Kapfunde and Tinashe Phiri.

“Sergeant Wafawanaka was in charge of the group that took us to the police station when the driver, one Constable Shoko, stopped behind Mashavira shops.

“Wafawanaka ripped off a branch from a tree and hit me hard on my head several times and I sustained a deep cut.”

Mukutirwa said he had been suffering from a headache since the attack.

Badze, Kapfunde and Phiri were detained at the police station while Mukutiri was taken to hospital where a policeman who escorted him demanded R200 “so as not to take me into cells after treatment”, he alleged.

Badze was released from the cells after his father in-law identified as Sithole, who has donated several items including four tyres for the same urban pick-up truck to Beitbridge police, intervened and paid a fine of $1 000 part of which the court has now refunded.

Kapfunde and Phiri, who took photographs of the injured Mukutiri inside the police truck, were denied the opportunity to pay fines.

They only paid the fines after the officer-in-charge of Beitbridge urban Kenneth Mushongahande intervened two days later.

Up to yesterday police had not surrendered Mukutiri’s medical reports.

The medical affidavit signed by two doctors says the cut on his scalp required sutures and did not rule out the possibility of permanent injury.

In another incident on April 4, four days into the lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, about 12 Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officers resident at the former Express Hotel now fully rented by their employer were arrested for “an illegal gathering” in their car park.

A source who was part of the gathering said police in the same Beitbridge police pick-up truck arrived at the residence where there are no cooking facilities and threw away pots full of meat and sadza before ordering the Zimra officers into their truck.

“The Zimra officers were never made to pay fine, but were extorted of R180 each to get back their freedom,” said the source, adding the money was paid by a businessman who was also caught up in the melee. Standard


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