Outrage over suspect's death

HARARE - A Chitungwiza family is outraged and in grief after a routine arrest turned into a funeral, in a case that brings to the fore unchecked police brutality.

Harrison Manyati was in perfect health when police arrested him on September 4.

Relatives say Manyati was arrested after visiting Makoni Police Station to follow up on a colleague who had been nabbed earlier.

Nine days later, he was dead from injuries that relatives say stemmed from the torture he suffered at the hands of a police unit called Police Internal Security Intelligence.

Harrison’s uncle, Wilson, accused the police of a cover-up job.

“The police are now acting judge, jury and executioner. Now they are alleging that Harrison had a fever and was complaining whilst in cells. For four days after his ordeal he could pass neither urine nor stool but was taking a lot of liquids. Do you beat someone when they have a fever? Is that the new cure in town? We are more of Somalia and these other countries where there is rampant lawlessness,” he said.

The Daily News was furnished with names of the officers the family says are responsible but their names are being withheld for legal reasons.

It was a heart-rending sight at Harare Hospital as family members gathered for post-mortem results that proved far from satisfactory.

The family is now taking measures to have an independent pathologist offer a second opinion.

Manyati’s father, Isaac, was dejected.

Hardly holding back tears, he told the Daily News, he will “seek revenge” against his son’s “killers”.

“We do not need the courts anymore because they are being by-passed. My son was arrested on spurious charges and from home to a police station straight into the grave,” he said.

“I have always thought newspapers sensationalise things but now that it has happened to us, I believe and wish the people who killed Harrison dead,” Isaac said.

“Before he died, Harrison told me he was tortured using what they call ‘the Beitbridge’ style in which the suspect is suspended between two tables and shackled by handcuffs and leg irons,” he said.

“Harrison voluntarily went to the police station to make an enquiry. A few days later my son is dead. Police stations are supposed to be sanctuaries of safety but have been turned into death chambers,” the father said.

Described by relatives as a workaholic who was law abiding, the 24-year-old was a cross border trader. “He was single and full of promise,” said Susan Chikomo, an aunt to Manyati.

“Harrison never quarrelled with anyone. He was not a thief and before his torture, he actually said he had never seen the inside of an ambulance until the day police dumped him at our home,” said Chikomo, tears streaming down.

A police officer-in-charge of crime at the police station only identified as Inspector Chipazi accused the family of exaggeration.

“I think there is an element of exaggeration. That is not what happened and I would not want to appear inconsiderate or disrespectful. I would rather have you speak to Harare provincial spokesperson he can call me if he does not have the details,” Chipazi told the Daily News over the phone.

The Daily News battled for comment from senior police officials without success yesterday, most likely because of changes at the police public relations department.

But relatives say Harrison narrated his ordeal to them before dying.

Harrison’s sibling Tichaona described his brother’s four-day nightmare.

“They tortured him with electricity. The information we are getting now is that he was never booked in as a suspect, even his friend. His feet and fingers were broken and he had bruises all over the body.

“A scan done at a private clinic revealed swollen kidneys. He was vomiting blood and green stuff, an indication that his gallbladder had burst,” Tichaona said.

Family spokesperson Munyaradzi Bwanya told the Daily News late yesterday they had rejected the post-mortem results done by a government doctor and now wanted an independent pathologist.

“According to the government doctor, Harrison died of a lung and urinary tract infection, and multiple bruises all over the body, swollen lungs and kidneys.

“The police have given us a copy after a huge quarrel. We have lost confidence in the Zimbabwe Republic Police as an institution and we are making efforts to get an independent opinion,” Bwanya said.

Civil society groups have repeatedly accused police of using torture to extract “confessions” information from suspects. Police deny the accusations.

Zimbabwe is one of the few African countries that are yet to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which came into force 28 years ago.

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