We caught a glimpse of the “new Zimbabwe” as we were heading towards Harare’s southern suburbs for an interview.
As our vehicle slowed for the light on a four lane stretch of the Chiremba Road, I caught a glimpse of a black truncheon being whipped through the air.
A soldier in camouflage with a machine gun and a plain clothes security agent pitched in, slapping, punching and kicking the victim.
Stunned by what I was seeing, I asked our driver to stop and got out of the car.
I joined a group of people at an outdoor garden centre who were watching from the other side of the road.
A women in an orange T-shirt trembled as she spoke. “What is happening to Zimbabwe?” she said.
“Even in (former president) Mugabe’s time we didn’t witness such things.”
A middle-aged man told me he was frightened. He said: “Who is in charge? Is this a military state?”
More than 650 people have been arrested and detained over the past two weeks and hundreds more beaten as the police and military sweep through towns and cities throughout Zimbabwe.
The crackdown was launched after street protests and looting broke out last week.
People took to the streets in collective rage, after the government raised fuel prices by 150%.
The country’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa, nicknamed The Crocodile, said the price hike was necessary to tackle shortages caused by an increase in fuel use and “rampant” illegal trading.
But the reality is that the government is broke and can no longer afford to purchase basic commodities under its dysfunctional, command-and-control economy.
But Mnangagwa and his fellow cadres are still in charge and they have given members of the security services free rein to reassert control.
Back on Harare’s Chiremba Road, we watched as members of the police and military force-marched their captive, then ordered him to run.
The man in grey was bundled into a private taxi van, then dragged out by a policeman as our camera captured the scene. Several policemen set upon him as he sat handcuffed on the ground.
A man in a blue police uniform delivered a series of blows with all his strength. The victim looks bewildered as his attacker tried to hold his head up.
A little later another man in handcuffs is pulled from the van and ordered to drive.
Policemen and plain-clothes agents then hopped into the back.
We do not know why a prisoner was told to drive, but it seems this private vehicle had been commandeered by the authorities as they swept through the neighbourhood.
The consequences of such attacks, undertaken in broad daylight, are clear. Zimbabweans feel scared and incredibly vulnerable.
Beatrice Mtetwa, one of the country’s best known human rights lawyers, says something terrible has happened over the last few weeks.
“All of these things add up to a very clear, orchestrated, subversion of suspects’ rights,” she said.
“Where does rule of law stand right now?” I asked.
“Right now, in the past two weeks the rule of law has been trampled on so badly that it is not there,” she said. “It doesn’t exist.”