Matabeleland Collective Accuses Mnangagwa’s Police Of Being Harsh On People From Matabeleland
12 May 2020
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Jenny Williams

Press statement|Matabeleland Collective (MC) note with serious concern the statement by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) that there have been 25000 people arrested in Zimbabwe during COVID 19 Lock Down with the highest number 5914 from Bulawayo.

MC renews its call to the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to honour its commitment to investigate the ZRP for heavy handed tribal discriminatory Policing in the City of Kings.  

MC demands an investigation in light of statistically high number of people arrested which is a trend also noted during the Shut Down 2019 where Bulawayo also scored the highest number of arrests. MC raises alarm that there is a high possibility of police abuse of office especially during times of conflict like this COVID 19 pandemic.

On 14-16 January 2019 during the Shut Down in Bulawayo there was alarmingly high number of arrests (500 adults and countless children) and hooliganism causing widespread looting throughout the City. MC noted that Police Officers and Soldiers were accused of encouraging looting and also that there was a high influx of people from outside the city who were leading criminal activities. MC called on the Government to investigate this but no investigation was ever convened.

Once again Lock Down 2020 there is widespread brutal beatings, arbitrary and excessive use of arrests. During this Lock Down period Police have also unnecessarily handcuffed people in pairs and putting them under risk of contracting COVID19. Arresting over 5914 people at this time is peculiar considering Government has an amnesty releasing prisoners. MC calls on the ZRP to consider other options and use minimum force so as to obey social distancing statutes at this time.

The investigation was promised to MC membership during a meeting with The President His Excellency E. D. Mnangagwa on 21 March 2019 and captured in the Implementation Matrix released on 9th April 2019 by Permanent Secretary Ministry of Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. The three month deadline for the investigation came and went without any action.  Police Officers and Soldiers who were seen looting never faced any disciplinary action and residents witnessed them openly encouraging looting. Some residents felt Police did not protect them from hooliganism by thugs who set up illegal road blocks, demanding “Tolls” from pedestrians and motorists alike. Police Officers then over responded with massive arrests in the City which went on for months with arrests being made from list of names prepared without any investigation.

MC is also calling on residents of Bulawayo who were subjected to violent beating on 16 April 2020 to come forward to document their experiences. Some cases have also been exposed in the press. On this day in particular Police officers deployed around Bulawayo went on the rampage beating people in CDB and in suburbs. Some police officers said the crackdown on that particular day was said to be due to a visit to the city by Vice President Kembo Mohadi. Police Officer and Soldiers attacked people including those lawfully queuing with social distancing at Bureau de Change or Supermarkets.

Also on 16 April 2020 two sisters from Cowdray Park were brutally beaten after police randomly removed them from a queue at Supermarket in Cowdray Park. The women were subjected to inhuman degrading treatment which included tribally based insults on their womanhood and physical attributes. No investigations have been done to identify the culprits.

Banks and Bureau de Change were provided permission to open so people could access cash. Mauline Ngwenya of Iminyela heard this and on 16 April 2020, she went to Western Union in City Centre to get cash sent by her sister for her family’s food. She was in a queue with a ticket when a man joined behind her and proceeded to get a ticket to be served. He told Mauline that he had just been beaten at Fife Street Western Union branch but needed to get cash urgently. The crowd assured him that as long as they all had tickets to be served they would be safe. After some minutes Police officers and Soldiers arrived at this branch and the man said these were the ones who had beaten him.  A few of those in the queue decided to run away than to chance it but they did not realise they were running in the direction of another group of Soldiers whom they accidentally collided with.

The soldiers ordered those in the fleeing group to lie down on the ground, face down. They then beat them with baton sticks. As they did so they asked, “Didn’t you hear the president saying you must not walk around town? We don’t want anyone in town. We went away and as we arrived at the bus stop there were more police and soldiers beating people trying to get transport home. People left the queue to walk home injured and in pain. The police beat everyone without giving any ear to any excuse. One old person who was going to UBH for their medication was beaten up and told to return home. Some who were in their work uniforms got beaten first before they were allowed to show their relevant authorisation letters. One of these was torn up by a Soldier who said I can’t read I am illiterate.”

Matabeleland Collective renew their request for an investigation into Policing in Bulawayo especially in light of the manner in which the Police use Gukurahundi style formats to do their work including tribal hatred targeting women and subjecting them to gender insensitive insults. The Zimbabwe Republic Police cannot continue to stir up trauma by this form of Policing in a region still living the pain of Gukurahundi 40 years later.

MC call on the Zimbabwe Republic Police to transparently identify Police Officers involved in use of excessive force on citizens and arbitrary arrests. Citizens will come forward to identify the Officers for prosecution.

MC call on Government through the appointed Ministries to appoint a commission of enquiry with some independent actions as part of it and complete the investigation within 3 months and publish findings within one month of submitting the draft report. The scope of the investigation should be Policing abuse of office and neglect of their service mandate to serve and protect.