Police face suit over protest killing

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has petitioned Home Affairs minister Cain Mathema, demanding compensation over a Chitungwiza man who was shot dead during the January fuel price hike protests.

According to a letter dated February 22, 2019, the organisation said it intends to sue the ministry over the death.  The letter was also copied to the officer in charge Chitungwiza Police Station, Commissioner-General of police Godwin Matanga, Prosecutor-General Kumbirai Hodzi and Health and Child Care minister Obadiah Moyo among other offices.

“Our clients have informed us as follows: on January 14, 2019, Kelvin Choto was killed by a police officer during protests taking place outside Chitungwiza Police Station. “He was shot in the head by police in the main road about 20 metres from the police station, outside the police fence. Sadly, he died on the spot.

“On January 15, 2019, ... Choto’s father, Julius…, went to Chitungwiza Police Station and reported his son missing. 
“He was referred to Chitungwiza General Hospital, where he identified his son’s body in the mortuary,” ZLHR said.

The organisation said when Julius went to Chitungwiza Police Station to make an application for a post-mortem report, he was told by the member-in-charge that the process had already been initiated and he was asked to make a statement to the investigating officer only identified as Ngwere.

A sudden death docket was opened, while Julius was advised that a post-mortem report would be collected from Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals. ZLHR said a post-mortem was conducted at Parirenyatwa hospital on January 18, 2019 and the family went to get a copy at Chitungwiza Police Station.

However, the member-in-charge informed Julius that the post-mortem report was not for his consumption and that only the commissioner-general of police would release the report but the family has not yet been supplied with the document.

“In light of the above circumstances and in accordance with our ... Choto’s family’s right to administrative justice and right to access information and the truth pertaining to his death, we hereby request a copy of the post-mortem report and documents including: copies of any consent and/or authorisation for the initiation of the post-mortem process in terms of Sections 4 and 8 of the Anatomical Donations & Post-Mortem Examinations Act (Chapter 15:01) or of any direction given for the post mortem by a magistrate in terms of Section 6 (1) (a) of the Inquests Act,” the organisation said.
It further demanded copies of the certificate establishing death and an inquest report, among other documents.

“In the event that an inquest has not been initiated, we hereby request that the matter be urgently referred to a magistrate for investigation, in terms of Section 5 of the Inquests Act (Chapter 7:07).

“Finally, we hereby notify you of our clients’ intention to sue for damages for the unlawful killing of ... Choto by the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Damages to be claimed include loss of support, pain and suffering and nervous shock, the sum to be commuted in due course and to be furnished in the summons commencing action,” the lawyers said.

Mathema has not yet responded to the letter.

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