Residents drag army, police to court

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THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights has filed an urgent chamber application on behalf of two Chinhoyi residents seeking an interdict against police and army officers who are attacking members of the public, defying social distancing recommendations in the process.

In the application filed before the High Court John Basopo, Grace Yona and ZLHR cited Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Defence minister Opah Muchinguri-Kashiri and army commander Edzayi Chimonyo as respondents in the matter.

Basopo and Yona claim that they were assaulted by cops and soldiers who pounced on them while in their yards and ordered them to stay indoors and never leave their homes.

They want the apex court to order the assault and rounding up of members of the public by police officers and the army under the command of Kazembe and Muchinguri-Kashiri during the lockdown, without observing social distancing as unlawful.

They also want the invasion of people’s homes and yards by the police and army and compulsion to stay indoors declared unlawful and a contravention of section 4 (1) (a) of the Public Health Order, 2020.

Muchinguri-Kashiri and Kazembe should also be ordered to develop and implement policies that guide their members in enforcement of the lockdown provisions.

ZLHR executive director Roselyn Hanzi raised concern over defiance of lockdown measures in some communities that continue to conduct their business and social lives in manner that exposes them to risks of contracting the deadly coronavirus.

She said law enforcement agents, who are mandated to ensure the lockdown is observed, were targeting people like Basopo and Yona in their homes.

“It cannot be overemphasised that while the police officers have enforcement powers in terms of lockdown regulations, they must do so within the bounds of the law and must respect fundamental human rights and freedoms,” Hanzi said.

“… if the police violate the laws that they seek to protect it places at risk the health and life of the public in general.

The court heard that on April 7, Basopo was parking his car when a truck full of police officers and members of the army arrived. He was approached by the cops who dragged him out of his car and began assaulting him before he was taken into the army truck where they continued attacking him.

Basopo was then made to lie on the floor while the truck went around and he ended up being crammed with other persons in violation of social distancing provisions.

“After a while the truck stopped, I was kicked out of the truck and fell on my back. My cellphone was damaged in the process,” Basopo said.

“It took me time to regain consciousness as I could not even recognise where I was at the time. A good Samaritan passing by helped me on my feet and showed me the way home. The police officers kept saying we should get indoors and sleep because no one was allowed outside their homes.”

Yona told the court that she was cooking on an open fire in her yard when the same police officers pounced on her.
She was in the company of her husband and ordered to lay face-down before being brutally assaulted by the police.

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