“They did not even apologise for killing my son,” Erica Munakopa sobs as she narrates how her life took a nasty turn following a fatal high-speed chase shootout which claimed the life of her son.
Paul Munakopa (who was 34 at the time of his death) was shot and killed by the police who were on patrol in May last year.
Paul was in the company of his girlfriend, Tracy Mufudzi when he was gunned down in cold blood by police driving in an unmarked vehicle.
A year on, Paul’s family wants their son’s killer to be brought to justice.
This is one of many cases of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings by the country’s security apparatus under the cover of a prolonged Covid-19 induced national lockdown imposed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to contain the spread of the deadly pandemic.
Speaking to CITE, on the anniversary of her son’s tragic passing, Erica, said the lethargy exhibited by the police in investigating Paul’s murder was worrisome.
“It has been a full year; nothing has been done. Absolutely nothing,” she sobbed.
“They (lawyers) keep telling me that the prosecution team and the police keep throwing the docket back and forth citing that more investigations need to be done. I don’t know what further evidence they need when the accused persons were identified, and witnesses are there as well.”
Erica often visits Hillside Police Station where the bullet-riddled car is being kept, seeking closure.
Every time, she endures a torturous and sorrowful journey back home. Her son is gone, and his killers are roaming the streets, free.
“The day my son died I went to the police station. I found the police officers who shot him there. They were not even remorseful. Instead, when they learnt who I was they laughed at me. How cold can that be?” Erica who is yet to come to terms with her son’s cruel demise said.
“They (shooters) don’t care about the implications of their actions. Ivo vagere havo nevana nevakadzi vavo ku Fairbridge uko (they are happy with their families at Fairbridge Police Base.)’’
Erica, a war liberation war collaborator, expressed disgust at the country’s justice system.
“I was a Chimbwido during the war. I made a lot of sacrifices for this country and this is how they repay me,” she scoffed.
“In other democratic countries, justice is served for such cases. In America, justice was served for George Floyd.”
“My son was butchered like a dog and nothing is being done. What is so different in our country,” a bitter Erica said.
Another victim of police brutality during the Covid-19 lockdown, Ntombizodwa Mpofu from Cowdray Park suburb in Bulawayo who was brutally assaulted together with her sister, Nokuthula, last April on their way from a nearby shopping centre buying said the country’s justice system was in a deplorable state.
Ntombizodwa and Nokuthula suffered swollen and bruised thighs and the latter also fractured her finger, because of the assault.
Their case is still before Western Commonage court but has suffered major setbacks after the magistrate and the state prosecutor handling the trial were transferred.
“We struggled to report this case. We were tossed from one police station to another. None of the police officers wanted to deal with our matter.
“When they finally did, it took forever before the matter was taken to court. Now a year later the case is still stagnant. They should have told us they never wanted to prosecute it.
“Nobody cares about how I feel when I bump into the people who abused me on the streets. Each time I see a police officer I feel so uneasy, I’m still terrified and angry at the same time.”
Ntombizodwa has lost faith in Zimbabwe’s justice system.
Human Rights Activists and Lawyers, Civic Society Organisations and International bodies have called on the government to ensure that victims of state brutality receive justice.
Human rights lawyer Nqobani Sithole said delayed justice had eroded confidence in the judicial system, which has been accused of capture.
“It is worrying that our justice system does not realise the effect that this whole stalling process has on the victims. They are slowly losing faith in the sincerity of our courts’ dealing with these matters,” Sithole noted.
Sithole said it is unfortunate that the magistrate and prosecutors were transferred before completing the case.
“The National Prosecuting Authority made some drastic changes. All police officers who were working at courts as prosecutors were deployed back to stations. Now the new prosecutors are supposed to familiarise themselves with these cases,” he said.
“The movement of magistrates by JSC also is a major setback, at the end of the day it inconveniences all parties involved: complainants, witnesses and even accused persons themselves.”
Sithole further added that justice delayed had eroded confidence in the existence of the rule of law.
“There are a lot of issues affecting the confidence that the public is meant to have in the justice system. Such factors as the case of Justice Luke Malaba which are ongoing have a bearing on the integrity of the system. The writing is on the wall. The justice system still has a lot to deal with before people can have utmost faith in it again.”
Emthonjeni Women’s Forum programs manager Melissa Ndlovu said there is a need for law enforcement agents to be sensitised on human rights issues especially when they are dealing with unarmed citizens.
“State security agents are duty bearers whose mandate is to protect citizens but on the contrary, they violate and abuse their clients. As an organisation we are advocating for the protection, safety, and security of women,” she said.
“What befell these women ( from Cowdray Park) is traumatising and it is only prudent for the courts to ensure that such sensitive cases are dealt with in the shortest possible time. Victims end up losing faith in the system. These perpetrators, in the service of justice, must be held accountable for their actions and should be reprimanded.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) communications officer Kumbirai Mafunda urged the courts to speed up the process of finalising human rights violation cases.
Mafunda said their organisation has consistently engaged Judiciary officers in courts so that progress can be made on human rights cases.“We are extremely concerned about the wheels of justice. Victims take too long to get justice. We urge judicial officers to prioritise the finalisation of such cases so that justice can be served timeously,” said Mafunda.
“At times the excuse is that there is inadequate manpower. Our encouragement to the government is that they recruit enough personnel to have a smooth flow of proceedings. There are many qualified lawyers who are not employed whom the government can grant jobs to.”
Recently, the European Union (EU) expressed concern over the continued human rights violations in Zimbabwe and urged the government to conduct impartial investigations and bring perpetrators to justice.