Victim of police brutality speaks out

HARARE - Washington Gezana, a professional driver, was the innocent victim of police brutality last March that saw him lose his eye.

In an exclusive interview with the Daily News on Sunday about the horror experience,  he said the scars will last forever. He has been fired from his job as a driver after his eye was gouged out.

Recalling events of March 23, he said he had no freedom, no autonomy, and no say in what was happening to him during the senseless attack by the rogue cops, who have since been jailed for 15 months each.

Just after hooking up with his wife after leaving OK Supermarket along Julius Nyerere Way, he was stopped by cops. The cops verbally abused his wife, and he protested.

The cops slammed him to the ground, and beat him up. It was a really bad encounter. He still bears scars on his face from the incident, and believes they will remain for life.

“If I had known, I would not have set foot in town that day,” he told the Daily News on Sunday ruefully.

“I am a troubled man now and what hurts me most is that I can no longer fend for my family because my career was heavily dependent on my eye sight.”

Livingstone Zvimba, Tendai Masungambira, Sunday Nyaude, Khululekani Dale, Evans Mashonganyika — all members of the Police Reaction Group — each got 18 months in jail for the brutal assault.

Three months were suspended on condition of good behaviour leaving them to serve an effective 15 months — a development which did not satisfy Gezana considering his loss.

He reckons they should have got stiffer punishment.

Recalling events of the day, he told the Daily News on Sunday: “I had just finished buying electricity tokens from OK supermarket along Julius Nyerere Way and arranged to meet with my wife and proceed home together.

“I noticed a police Defender (vehicle) parked at an island along that road and as I advanced, I noticed police officers quarrelling with a man who was clad in overalls, accusing him of misrepresenting to be a cop.”

With his wife in tow, Gezana quietly tried to cross Julius Nyerere heading towards Charge Office Service Station intending to get transport to connect to Hatfield where they resided.

The police officers began shouting at Gezana’s wife calling her a “whore.” This did not go down well with the husband who tried to defend his wife’s honour.

He politely shot back at the cops, asking them why they had used abusive language against his wife.

“She was slapped by one of the cops and three came after me. Fortunately, my wife managed to run away but I was overpowered and fell to the ground while being assaulted.

“They kicked me in the stomach, hit me on the head using booted feet and other objects.

“One of them then struck me hard on the right eye and I blacked out for a few minutes before regaining consciousness,” he recalled.

Gezana was traumatised when he tried to open his eyes after regaining consciousness only to realise that the right one was hanging loose from its socket.

He panicked at the sight of blood and also realised that his left eye had blurred vision. He began calling for help.

“I felt feverish, the whole body, and it was as if I had been put in a freezer. When I regained consciousness, I realised that I was still being assaulted and they only left after one of them alerted them that I had been seriously injured.

“People gathered and began taking pictures and videos and one guy gave me a handkerchief which I used to cover my eye before Enerst Masvaire and Leonard Mahara came to my rescue.”

The good Samaritans removed their T-shirts and made a pillow for Gezana to stop the haemorrhaging. Mahara rushed to look for transport to take Gezana to Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

At that moment, Gezana said he felt someone steal his wallet that had all his particulars. He was too weak to raise alarm against the robber.

He was rushed to Parirenyatwa and immediately referred to Sekuru Kaguvi Optical Centre for an emergency operation. He then lost his eye and consequently his job as a driver.

“The operation went well but my life was never the same again. I used to do school-runs for various people in Hatfield but my doctor endorsed that I could no longer drive a public vehicle.

“I am the bread winner in my family and used to take care of my mother and brother not withstanding my wife who is in nursing school and daughter who is supposed to start school now.

“I have had to endure migraine headaches, lose focus and even during the day I cannot face the light.

“My doctor has told me that my vision focus is at six out of ten and will never return to normalcy.”

His four-year-old daughter repeatedly asks him when he will put his eye back into its socket.

The toddler is yet to come to terms with the disability her father endured consequent of brutal police attacks .

Although nine months have passed and the perpetrators jailed, the physical and psychological pains sustained during the incident still haunt him to this day.

He describes March 23 as a “black Thursday”.

He is currently being assisted by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to sue for damages caused by the five’s conduct.

“I can no longer stand seeing any police officer in uniform. I get so infuriated I don’t wish anything good for them.

“They destroyed my life and I am a clear testimony that police in Zimbabwe have nothing to offer in nation building or public security,” a heartbroken Gezana said.