Concerns grow over human rights violations

HARARE - As some rogue elements within the security sector engage in human rights violations witnessed during the tenure of deposed former leader Robert Mugabe, legal watchdog Veritas has raised concerns over government delays in setting up an independent body to investigate complaints against members of the forces.

This comes as there is outrage over police brutality which saw some rogue officers going on rampage in Harare at the weekend — savagely assaulting revellers at nightclubs — and harassing ordinary people going about their business.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week swore-in a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the violence and six deaths of civilians who were killed when the army used live ammunition to break an ugly demonstration in Harare on August 1.

“Section 210 of the Constitution has still not been implemented over five years after the main parts of the Constitution came into force on 22nd August 2013.

“The section provides for setting up an independent body to receive and investigate complaints against the security services (i.e. the Police Service, the Defence Forces, the State intelligence services and the Prisons and Correctional Service). 

“The need for an independent complaints mechanism is obvious.  The Police and the Defence Forces are the coercive arms of the State which the government employs to enforce obedience to the law and the maintenance of public order. 

“As coercive arms they can use force, and if they do there will inevitably be complaints about their use of it. In the interests of the public, and to protect their own reputation, it is important for these complaints to be investigated fully and impartially by an independent body,” Veritas said in a statement.

The legal watchdog said it had previously tried to push the government to implement section 210 but with little success.

According to section 210: “An Act of Parliament must provide an effective and independent mechanism for receiving and investigating complaints from members of the public about misconduct on the part of members of the security services, and for remedying any harm caused by such misconduct.”

Some rogue police officers ran amok in Harare at the weekend — firing tear gas indiscriminately at commuters omnibus ranks before savagely assaulting revellers at night clubs.

In the process, they reignited the ugly memories of the savage State brutality that was witnessed on a daily basis during the despotic rule of ousted former president Robert Mugabe.

The weekend’s brutal acts by law enforcement agents also fly in the face of the public pronouncements of both President Emmerson Mnangagwa and new police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga — who have preached messages of peace and a new dispensation in the country.

Police have been engaging in running battles with vendors who are resisting to leave Harare’s central business district (CBD) following the outbreak of cholera which has so far killed at least 32 people and left thousands others in need of treatment.

Police and their municipal counterparts have launched a combined blitz on vendors.

Cholera — a treatable, poor man’s disease which causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea and which is lethal if not attended to promptly — has struck Zimbabwe in a bad way for the fourth time in 15 years.

Such is the speed with which the current epidemic is spreading that there is growing fear among ordinary Zimbabweans that the rising cases of cholera may approach the disastrous levels that were seen in the outbreak of 2008 which killed more than 4 000 people nationwide.

That outbreak — as is the case with the current one — was blamed on poor public health policies, as well as the country’s broken water and sanitation infrastructure.

Government needs more than $60 million to contain the highly-infectious disease which is rapidly spreading across the country.

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