By Zenzele Ndebele and Tanaka Mrewa
A thirty-four-year-old man from Bulawayo was on Saturday night fatally shot by suspected police officers in Hillside suburb while driving with his fiancé.
Paul Munakopa, who was shot around 10 pm along Caithness Road in Hillside, succumbed to the gunshot wounds at United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH) in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Munakopa’s fiance, Tracy Mufudzi, told CITE in an interview that her fiancé was shot four times by suspected police officers who were reportedly driving in a white Toyota Fortuner with civilians believed to members of a neighbourhood watch committee.
Mufudzi said she had linked up with Munakopa earlier in the day and they had gone together to Burnside suburb to view a house which they were planning to rent.
“We went to my place and parked outside the gate. We were so excited about moving in together and starting our own home. He said the house was a bit old and would need some renovations. He then suggested that we go to Malindela suburb where he would show me a house he once revamped while he was still staying there,” she narrated.
Mufudzi said they proceeded to Malindela suburb and parked by near the house.
She said they sat in the car talking for about 20 minutes and as they drove off the white car appeared from nowhere.
“Munakopa reversed his car and we drove off. When we got to Cecil Avenue we spotted the car following us. They caught up with us at Hillside Teachers College and blocked our way. This car had no siren or anything on it and we were just puzzled as to whom it was. We reversed and turned into Caithness Road,” she narrated.
She said the car blocked their way again and two white men, who were wearing camouflage caps and had bandanas tied to their faces disembarked from the vehicle.
“We were now panicking because we couldn’t even see who these people were nor did we know what they wanted. He tried to reverse again. At the time when he started to drive off we heard four gunshots. He was hit on his hands, the car lost control and fell into a trench on the side of the road,” she said.
“There was no warning shots or anything. They just started firing. At least they could have hooted or asked us to pull over. There was no way we could have just known that these were police officers chasing us.”
She added that the two armed cops came to the car and started smashing the windows.
“I was seated at the back seat of the car and I was screaming. I reached out for Munakopa and held his head. I felt blood all over it. One of the white men told the cops that Munakopa was bleeding and asked for something to help to apply pressure to prevent blood loss,” she said.
“The man then called for an ambulance, more police officers came to the scene. I asked them why they didn’t fire warning shots, the cops said they fired at us because we did not stop.”
Mufudzi said an ambulance came about 30 minutes later, but she remained at the scene until their car had been towed away.
Her brother then picked her up and they drove to UBH.
“At UBH they said I should have been accompanied by a police officer who would explain what had transpired. They said he had lost a lot of blood because the bullets had hit several atteries. They said they’d only give him painkillers and operate on him the following day. Around 4 AM I got a message that he had passed on,” she said.
She said she then proceeded to Central Police Station to open a case against the police but was referred to Hillside police station.
“When I got there I was ushered into a room where we found one of the officers who shot at us. He looked at me and laughed. I ran out of the room crying. They then started recording my statement as a witness to the case. I told them that I wanted to open a case too against the police but they told me that I was not allowed to do so,” she said.
When contacted for a comment, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the shooting incident and said investigations are still underway.
Nyathi said an official statement will be issued once circumstances around the incident have been established.
“Police are investigating a case in which a high-speed chase resulted in a fatal shoot out by police officers who were on patrol. The now-deceased man was found naked with his partner in their car. We are yet to get finer details pertaining to the incident and an official statement will be issued,” Ass Comm Nyathi said.