Zanu PF and MDC-T supporters on Tuesday clashed in Mbare at the funeral wake of Augustine Mahute (26) who died in police cells under as yet unclear circumstances.
Mahute, who is believed to have been an MDC-T activist, died at Matapi Police Station on Monday morning after he was allegedly beaten by relatives of Chamunorwa Mauye, a man whom he stayed with at the same lodgings before his death from natural causes last week.
Mauye’s relatives accused Mahute of stealing the dead man’s pair of shoes, a blanket and a pair of jeans.
However, Mahute’s relatives accuse the police of also beating the now deceased in attempts to force a confession.
When NewsDay visited Mbare on Tuesday, a tense atmosphere engulfed several blocks of flats in the area and some neighbours said they were afraid to attend the funeral wake.
Harare police spokesperson, Inspector James Sabau, said Mahute was beaten up by Mauye’s relatives three of whom had since been arrested.
Sabau said two more suspects were wanted by the police in connection with Mahute’s alleged murder and were on the run. He identified them as Peter Gorokota and another whose name was given only as John.
“The deceased (Mahute) was staying with a friend, Chamunorwa Mauye, who fell ill and died last week,” said Sabau.
Sabau denied allegations by Mahute’s relatives that police had assaulted the now deceased while he was in their custody on Sunday night. He said police at Matapi, where Mahute was taken had only given him “a few claps . . . to make him talk”.
“Mahute was assaulted by Mauye’s relatives. He was left in the hands of the police but appeared too drunk and was left for a while to sober up. Investigations revealed that he was not heavily assaulted (by the police) but received a few claps to make him talk,” Sabau said.
“He was checked on regularly throughout the night but around 05:45hrs he was found dead in the cells but with no visible injuries.
“He had a watery fluid in his mouth and the pathologist who conducted the post-mortem said he died of respiratory failure,” he said.
Sabau said the violence that had engulfed the funeral wake had become political and said the MDC-T was claiming the deceased to have been their member.
“The MDC hijacked the now deceased. They were singing political songs at the funeral while shouting at people who were passing by,” said Sabau.
“We do not know their political affiliation but when the police went there to investigate mourners started throwing stones and one policeman was hit in the fracas,” he said.
Narrating the ordeal, Kenneth Mahute, brother to the deceased said Mahute went to stay with Chamunorwa, a neighbour who had been sick for some time with no one to look after him until he died last week.
After Chamunorwa’s burial his relatives inquired about his missing belongings and decided to make a police report.
Mbare MP Piniel Denga said he was worried by the level of lawlessness in his constituency.
He confirmed the death of Mahute in police cells and condemned police inaction on that matter.
“They did not even call the ambulance to help him,” said Denga. “The police force leaves a lot to be desired,” he said.
Mahute’s brother said police acted suspiciously when they visited the family the following day to inform them about the death. The police, he said, had refused to give the family the post-mortem report of their relative.
“We have to get a lawyer to help us get the post-mortem results so that we know what led to the death of our brother,” Mahute said.
“I am suspicious of the police action because at the hospital, police officers had an altercation amongst themselves.
“I was denied entry into the mortuary and again that remains suspicious as it raises a lot of questions. When we got into the police cells where he died, we found his body lying in a pool of water.”