Magistrate convicts police for assault

A Zimbabwean court has convicted two police officers who assaulted a villager in yet another example of how law enforcement agents who cross the line can still be held accountable.

Constables Prince Chihwai and Munyaradzi Willard Matienga all based at Ruda Police Station in Honde Valley, Manicaland Province will spend the next one month behind bars unless they pay $50 fine each after Mutare Magistrate Annia Ndiraya convicted them for assault on 23 August 2012.

The two policemen were convicted for contravening Section 89 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act after they assaulted Kuziwa Samera, a villager, for allegedly harbouring Tendai Tafara, another village dweller whom they were pursuing.

The two policemen had appeared to escape with impunity but the long arm of the law caught up with them after the intervention of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR).

Magistrate Ndiraya sentenced Chihwai and Matienga to pay a fine of $50 or serve a 30 day jail term. In addition, three months were wholly suspended for five years on condition the policemen are not convicted of an offence involving assault for which they will be sentenced to imprisonment without the option of a fine.

Chihwai and Matienga were part of a group of policemen who went to Samera’s homestead on 30 January looking for Tafara, whom they suspected of hiding at the place.

After failing to locate Tafara, the officers assaulted Samera with a log on his back. The officers proceeded to quiz Samera on whether he had prepared fish for lunch and left him in “total anguish” after realising that he had prepared green vegetables.

More abuse and assault was to follow for Samera, who suffered cruelty at the hands of Ruda police officers in March after they accused him of reporting them to ZLHR. Samera had approached ZLHR in February, leading to the organisation’s lawyer Peggy Tavagadza writing a letter of complaint to the officer-in-charge at Ruda Police Station.

Angry that Samera had sought help from ZLHR in his quest for justice, Ruda policemen on 21 March swooped on the 24-year-old and arrested him on accusations of reporting them to lawyers.

At the police station, officers told Samera that: “Your lawyers are not as educated as we are.” They also detained him for three days without charge and was not informed of the offence he had allegedly committed.

Further, police denied him access to his relatives and were vicious to the extent of arresting a relative who had come to visit Samera.

Samera was also denied water for the three days he spent in detention until ZLHR lawyers attended to the matter.

To cover up their heinous acts, police tried to cook up assault charges but the move collapsed because there was no complainant and medical affidavit from any litigant.

Now it is Samera who is having the last laugh as Chihwai and Matienga got convicted. Chihwai and Matienga are the latest policemen to be convicted for assault this year after Constables Mary Zvapera, Virginia Matinde and Passmore Feremba, all based at Bulawayo’s Criminal Investigations Department, were found guilty of assaulting Bulawayo residents Agnes Muponda and Thaba Mtetwa after arresting them in the city centre in January.

Muponda was the first to suffer at the hands of the police when she was arrested on theft charges early this year. So severe was the assault on Muponda that doctors who attended to the 37-year-old say she could have suffered “potential damage of life”. The officers used baton sticks and a plank to assault her under the feet and all over the body before detaining her for two nights without preferring charges.

Zvapera, Matinde and Feremba were sentenced to pay $200 fine or spend four months behind bars by Bulawayo Magistrate Shepherd Munjanja in June.

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