Judge orders police to pay Bulawayo woman

HIGH Court Judge Justice Mary Zimba-Dube on Wednesday 04 February 2015 ordered two Zimbabwe Republic Police officers to pay damages to a man they shot in 2009 after suspecting him of being a robber, in a victory for human rights lawyers fighting impunity within law enforcement agents.

After a full trial, Justice Zimba-Dube ordered Constable Muuya and Detective Sergeant Musekiwa to pay $2 168 to Cosmas Nyambara in damages for the injuries he sustained after being shot in the left thigh by the police officers.

Kennedy Masiye and Bellinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) represented Nyambara.

The 53 year-old Nyambara was shot by the police and forced to endure 14 months in a dilapidated prison before being acquitted of the trumped up charges.

He was shot in the thigh in July 2009 while lying on the ground after police suspected him of being part of a gang that had robbed a vehicle in Harare’s Mt Pleasant suburb. Nyambara said he was at his rural home when the alleged robbery occurred.

Whilst in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds, Nyambara was charged with armed robbery as defined in Section 126 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on 16 July 2009. He was subsequently remanded in custody at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

After his acquittal, he approached the High Court seeking compensation, saying he could barely lead a normal life after the ordeal.

In court, Nyambara said what had started as a normal day on 13 July in 2009 turned into a nightmare for when two plainclothes policemen Muuya and Musekiwa “brandished guns and ordered him to stop”.

Fearing for his life, Nyambara complied and was ordered to lie on the ground before he was shot in the left thigh.

His lawyers Chinowawa and Masiye said the police action was “totally uncalled for” as Nyambara had not shown any inclination to flee or resist the order to lie down.

The policemen had suspected Nyambara of being part of a gang of armed robbers who were on the police “most wanted” list. Muuya and Musekiwa asked Nyambara to reveal the whereabouts of "his accomplices as well as the hiding place for some AK47s" to which he denied knowledge of.

According to Nyambara’s lawyers, the police officers bundled him into a grey Toyota Collora vehicle that had been parked on the opposite side of the road.

After going through this torment, the charges were withdrawn before plea due to lack of evidence despite the fact that the police officers had claimed to have positively identified Nyambara as one of the robbers.

To save face, the State then charged Nyambara with possession of a firearm, “notwithstanding the fact that no firearm had been retrieved from him at the time of his arrest”.

That charge was dropped on 9 September 2010 resulting in Nyambara’s release.

But life has never been the same. Not only did he sustain bodily injury from the gunshot, Nyambara lost his sales job where he earned $450 monthly. His mobility and independence have reduced, as he is unable to participate in basic and ordinary activities that a farmer should be able to as his left leg cannot sustain this. Nyambara now walks with a limp because of slight shortening and can no longer run and play sport.

Nyambara’s case is one in many that show how police recklessness has cost innocent citizens. Several claims similar to Nyambara’s are before the courts. Police have recently started paying out some of the victims who have won their cases in court after receiving legal assistance from ZLHR.

Meanwhile, the Full Bench of the Constitutional Court on Wednesday 04 February 2015 ordered a permanent stay of prosecution of Duduzile Sibanda, a 57 year-old Bulawayo woman, who was charged with defacing a ZANU PF campaign poster in contravention of Section 152 (1) of the Electoral Act during the run-up to the March 2008 general elections but was only arraigned before the criminal courts for trial four years later.

Sibanda’s lawyers Lizwe Jamela, Nosimilo Chanayiwa, David Hofisi of ZLHR and Advocate Tawanda Zhuwarara then petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking an order declaring that the delay in bringing her to trial violated her constitutional right to trial within a reasonable time.

The State consented to the order sought by Sibanda which was granted by the Constitutional Court.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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Post published in: Human Rights

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