Opposition MPs have called on the government to launch an investigation into police brutality following revelations by two Cowdray Park women who were assaulted by police officers for allegedly defying lockdown rules.
MDC Alliance condemned the abuse, saying it was typical of a country ruled by a “military junta.
The Cowdray Park incident sparked outrage among human rights activists and civil society organisations after CITE released footage of sisters Nokuthula and Ntombizodwa Mpofu, who narrated how on April 16, 2020, they were handcuffed, assaulted, labelled ‘prostitutes’ and tribally insulted by police officers based at the suburb after they had gone to the shops to buy some foodstuffs.
The police officers were identified as Tichaona Zariro, Christabel Munyondo, Elizabeth Denhere, Patson Gumoreyi, Zibusiso Masuku and Simbarashe Bvekwa.
MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza said the beatings were inconsistent with the Police Act.
The six were due for court last Saturday but the case failed to take place at the Western Commonage Courts after lawyers representing the women accused police of conducting shoddy investigations.
Luveve MP, Stella Ndlovu, said stringent measures must be taken against these police officers.
“The alleged brutality of the officers against two defenceless women is shockingly unbelievable and appalling. The two women had gone to buy food supplies for their families. One was breastfeeding, but had to sleep in the cells without her baby. Both were brutally beaten and left in pain without any medical attention as must be the norm to injured detainees,” she said.
“They did nothing wrong by going to buy food, because people were not banned from buying such essentials during the lockdown. One woman had gone to buy meat to cook for supper but her family went to bed without a meal as she was kept in police custody.”
Ndlovu said as legislators, they would help the ladies receive justice.
“We cannot tolerate such behaviour in society. We pray and hope that the courts will do their job perfectly without fear, favour or prejudice. Gender-based violence is a scourge that must not be taken lightly by the courts and communities.
“Women (and children) deserve protection, care and love especially from our law enforcement agents. The culprits do not deserve to remain in the police force. Stringent measures must be taken against them,” said the Luveve MP.
Ndlovu believes ‘many’ people have also experienced the “bully and callous behavior and kept quiet because of fear. This is likely just a tip of the iceberg.”
Bulawayo Senator, Helen Zivira, concurred the assault was against Article 52 (a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which states, “every person has the right to bodily and psychological integrity, which includes the right to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources.”
“The alleged assault by police officers, is worsened by the fact that anti-Ndebele slurs were pelted at the women, something common in Matabeleland during the early 1980s Gukurahundi genocide. We condemn this attempt to divide Bulawayo residents on tribal lines and call upon the ZRP to uphold Section 3 (2) (i) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which recognises the rights of ‘ethnic, racial, cultural’ and ‘linguistic’ groups,” she said.
MDC Secretary for Home Affairs, Rittah Ndlovu, said it was incumbent upon law enforcement agencies, especially the police department to make sure citizens’ rights were enjoyed without disturbance.
“The MDC Alliance calls upon Police Commissioner-General Godwin Thandabantu Matanga, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, National Peace and Reconciliation Commission and the Zimbabwe Gender Commission to work together towards imposing heavy penalties on the errant police officers including but not limited to termination of employment,” she said.