Police ill-treatment of suspects under spotlight

3 mins read

Brenna Matendere

Harare--Police abuse of detained suspects has once again come under the spotlight after a Masvingo citizen, Theresa Khosana, on Monday won a US$2,500 civil lawsuit against the Commissioner General of Police, Godwin Matanga, the Minister of Justice Ziyambi Ziyambi, and three junior police officers.

The three police details are constables Mavis Sibanda, John Nyaya, and one Mushonga from Chivamba Police Station in Zaka, Masving province.

Martin Mureri, an advocate deployed by Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), represented Khosana in the case heard by a Masvingo provincial magistrate, Isaac Chikura under court record number MSVPCG 278/23.

The court heard that the police officers went to the plaintiff residence to execute an arrest warrant involving her son, Byron, who was allegedly in default of community service.

The officers, suspecting that Khosana was harbouring her son, became confrontational and hostile towards her, forcing the plaintiff to respond with verbal insults that led to her arrest.

Khosana was mistreated and endured prolonged suffering while in police custody that included being drenched in cold water and chained.

Mureri argued that the actions of the police violated the plaintiff’s constitutional rights.

Section 53 of the constitution stipulates that “no person may be subjected to physical or psychological torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

In passing judgment, the magistrate remarked that “these three police officers behaved as if they were above the law and even participated in ridiculing the plaintiff while she was in a vulnerable state.”

The magistrate added that the three police officers, along with the Commissioner General of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs, were jointly and vicariously liable for the actions of the defendants.

“The plaintiff (Khosana) is awarded damages in the amount of $2,500 USD for the maltreatment and brutality she suffered while in police custody. This sum is deemed appropriate to compensate the plaintiff for the physical and emotional distress caused by the defendants’ actions,” noted the magistrate.

The defendants and the Commissioner General were ordered to bear the costs of the legal proceedings.

Over the years, local magistrates and judges have ordered investigations into cases in which suspects would have been abused in police custody but no action has been taken in the majority of the violations.

Detained victims of inhuman police treatment include political activists, human rights defenders, journalists and ordinary suspects.

Local and international human rights watchdogs such as Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, ZLHR and Amnesty International have repeatedly condemned the harassment and persecution of detained citizens and other individuals.