'Police using excessive force'

HARARE - A peace-building organisation Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) has accused the police of using excessive force, as protests against President Robert Mugabe’s rule continue to gather momentum across the country.

The organisation said that the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe needs dialogue to avert civil unrest, based on the clashes between the police and the citizens.

“ . . . it is notable that the police are using excessive force and brutality against peaceful citizens who are merely exercising their rights to demonstrate and demanding accountability from their elected government,” the organisation said.

Zimbabwe has been involved in massive protests against the debilitating situation in the country. The country is battling a massive liquidity crunch, while the economy has hit bottom low and unemployment levels have reached unprecedented levels.

Amid the civil demonstrations, police have clashed with the citizens, leading to some protestors being brutalised.   HZT said that the police’s violent reaction and use of excessive force to control peaceful protestors is resulting in them fighting back in defence.

“Public counter-attacks are a result of lost respect to the police force and a revenge opportunity taken by citizens. In this view, any further use of brutal force against citizens could increase backlashes against the law enforcement, leading to potential lawlessness, criminality and lack of respect on the part of our national police force,” HZT said.

Following heavy clashes in Harare recently, protestors retaliated by torching Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings (ZBC) and Zimbabwe Republic Police vehicles.

HZT said the government must consider banning the use of force against peaceful and genuine social dissention in order to restore the dignity of national institutions.

The organisation said the emerging levels of police brutality and public violent revenge are a dangerous precedent to the democracy that Zimbabwe seeks to build.

“This growing hostile relationship between the police and the citizens creates interminable civil unrest and extremism on both parties. In the interest of maintaining peace and order, upholding human rights and dignity, the police should respond to the public’s acts of freedom of expression and association in a constructive and peaceful manner.”

The organisation further said that it is deplorable and objectionable for the police to pursue national security, law and order using inhumane actions and violence against peaceful citizens. According to the report, over 580 people have been injured with 161 being victims of organised violence since January this year. Several local and international institutions have condemned the use of excessive force by the police in trying to quell the dissent.

“The violence experienced in the past between February and August 2016 reflects deep-seated problems requiring national dialogue through engaging citizens and the State. Expedient implementation of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) is also an opportune time for Zimbabwe to facilitate national healing, reconciliation and integration.

“Zimbabwe should at all cost avoid the South African Marikana consequences or chaotic extremism akin of the Middle East and North African experiences. Zimbabwe needs peace and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

“While the citizens must exercise their rights peacefully, the law enforcement agencies should uphold the Constitution, respect human rights, fundamental freedoms when maintaining peace and order,” HZT said.

The organisation also said between June and August 2016, over 15 demonstrations were conducted in Harare, Beitbridge, Kwekwe, Bulawayo, Mutare, Victoria Falls, Bindura and other smaller towns of Zimbabwe.

HZT however, warned that the country’s crisis is reaching a “knocking point”.

“Political parties particularly those in Zanu PF and the MDC could also have obtained an opportunity to settle their political scores, emerging either from their internal factionalism or across the parties. It is within this context that police brutality has become a challenge to enhancing peace and order in the country,” the organisation said.

It further stated that people have been assaulted and violently displaced in several peaceful protests in Harare, Kwekwe, Bulawayo, Beitbridge and many other smaller towns.

“It is everyone’s anticipation that professionally trained law enforcement agencies should respect the people’s rights and target offenders rather than innocent citizens going about their duties. The worst callous act by police was observed as they threw teargas canisters in a commuter omnibus full of passengers.”

The report also stated that in July, this year 104 people were arrested while many were randomly beaten without even having been part of the protests in Harare’s Epworth suburb.

“It is unfortunate that police reaction to the peaceful demonstrations actually triggered violence leading to destruction of property, disruption of public business and injuries to members of the public and protestors,” the organisation said, adding that over 20 journalists were also assaulted between June and August 2016.

Comments (1)

Shame on you ZRP. Ukaona nhamo yamuinayo one is forced to ask whether it's loyalty or fear tht drive u to do such despicable acts. Shame shame! Where is yo honor? U attack yo own brothers n sisters?

Mhepoyenzara - 6 September 2016

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