HomeNewsFamily accuses police of cover-up

Family accuses police of cover-up

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TANATSWA Neil Mutyora’s family has accused police of trying to cover up the involvement of one of their own in the death of their son, who was knocked down by a commuter omnibus driver allegedly fleeing from a police officer.

BY MOSES MATENGA
STAFF REPORTER

Tanatswa, who was 3 years old, was buried at Granville Cemetery in Harare yesterday before midday with no police officer in attendance as they, in a statement, denied any connection to the accident on Tuesday.

Emotions ran high at Tanatswa’s burial with family members, Rugare residents and interest groups blaming the police’s heavy-handedness in dealing with errant kombi drivers for the death of the boy.

Cuthbert Mutyora, Tanatswa’s father, said it was sad that the police were only focusing on the kombi driver without taking any action on one of their officers who allegedly caused the accident.

But national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) were not responsible for the accident and accused the Press of whipping up sentiment against the police by publishing unverified facts.

“While the ZRP regrets the loss of the innocent life, we are demanding commuter omnibus drivers not to flee from the police and observe the laws of the country,” Charamba said.

“The ZRP is concerned with the reckless and malicious reportage meant to tarnish the image of the police and to whip up emotions among the public with the intention of turning the same public against the police. At the same time, the ZRP will not allow journalists to advocate for a lawless country.

“For the record, no police officer was involved in that accident. We expect reporters to verify facts before accusing the police.”
The ZRP only reacted yesterday to the story which was first reported on Wednesday.

However, several eyewitnesses testified to the involvement of the police both to this newspaper and on national radio to the extent of even naming the policeman involved.

An angry Mutyora said: “I am not going to accept the action on the kombi driver without the police officer facing the same. I am told the witness was being told what to say by the police. They were actually arguing with her and giving their own possible scenarios, thereby confusing her. It is better that if they continue doing that, I [will] stop her from attending the courts as a witness because it won’t help matters.”

He said there was no remorse from the police and the only communication he got was to summon the witness. The boy’s mother, Leona Kiti, on several instances was overcome with emotion and collapsed while parents of Tanatswa’s friends could not hold their grief over the sudden loss.

A cousin of Tanatswa, who only identified himself as A Joe, said he accompanied to the police a 16-year-old relative who witnessed the accident.

He said there were fears the police were “coaching” her to testify that there were no officers at the scene when the incident happened.

“A statement was recorded when I took her to the police. The police were defending their colleague saying he was not behind the steering,” A Joe said.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) yesterday expressed concern over the growing number of incidents whereby police officers “have been the catalyst or cause of a number of traffic accidents across the country”.

ZLHR said in a statement it condemned any form of reckless driving and any breach of traffic laws by public transporters that were being witnessed on the roads of Zimbabwe.

But the lawyer’s body also called upon the police to behave in a responsible manner and conduct that would not undermine the public confidence in the police service.

“ZLHR also joins the call for the police officers directly or indirectly responsible for the death of Tanatswa to be held to account for their actions both in official and personal capacity,” ZLHR said.

It said the loss of the promising and precious life of Tanatswa should point towards a revision of police procedures when they pursue traffic offenders or when setting up roadblocks.

“The Commissioner-General of Police and the Minister of Home Affairs have a duty to investigate and sanction police officers found to be engaging in the catastrophic and reckless pursuits with commuter omnibus drivers,” ZLHR said.

But Charamba said police were not responsible for the accident.

Charamba said the driver involved, Lloyd Kusotera of Budiriro 5A, who was driving a Toyota Hiace, was picking up passengers at an undesignated point and upon seeing police on decongestion duties, he drove off at high speed against the one-way Chinhoyi Street towards Samora Machel Avenue.

“In the process, Kusotera knocked down Neil Tanatswa, who was crossing Chinhoyi Street in the company of his sister.”

Charamba accused the media of abusing journalistic privilege and attacking law enforcement agents on issues that police were not responsible for.
“This is a personal attack on the Commissioner-General of Police and [that] is unacceptable,” Charamba said.

Several groups and ordinary Zimbabweans said a solution should be found to stop the deaths on the roads.

The Centre for the Advancement of Dialogue and Democracy (CADD) said it was greatly disturbed by the “barbaric” strategies being used by the ZRP that had contributed to loss of lives in most urban centres.

“We are holding [Police Commissioner-General Augustine] Chihuri responsible for the death of several people who lost lives during clashes between the police and commuter omnibus drivers. The disorderly harassment and chasing of commuter omnibus drivers shows poor training in mob and traffic control,” CADD said in a statement yesterday.

“CADD will not hesitate to take action against the unprofessional and corrupt police officers if the situation persists. It is saddening to note that our police force has drifted from its constitutional mandate of maintaining law and order.”

Combined Harare Residents’ Association chairman Simbarashe Moyo said the police operations were living a trail of death, life-threatening injuries and destruction of property.

“The rate at which we are losing precious and innocent lives in and around the CBD [central business district] requires a paradigm shift in strategy and approach as it has already gotten out of hand,” he said.

“When life is lost in the process of apprehending errant commuter omnibus drivers, it militates against the spirit of law enforcement and has the potential of turning the people against the ZRP and the Municipal Police.

“Again, the rate at which these law enforcement agents are demanding bribes has reached scary levels and this seems to be the reason why errant kombi drivers are prepared to risk everything, including the lives of pedestrians, by running away.”

Commenting on the NewsDay website, other residents suggested that government, through Local Government, Public Works and National Housing minister Ignatius Chombo, Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi and Transport minister Obert Mpofu, should sit down as a matter of urgency to address the chaos.

A reader, identified as Hove, said: “It’s not the end, but just the beginning. I said it before and I repeat that we don’t need police everywhere in the roads. Only disciplined and monitored officers should be at designated areas, not everywhere soliciting bribes.”

In April last year, an elderly woman died after being knocked down by a kombi whose driver was fleeing from police near the Copacabana bus terminus in central Harare.

In December, a Tafara resident and war veteran Raphael Mbanje died at the corner of Chinhoyi and Bank streets in downtown Harare after he was knocked by a kombi trying to evade the police.

Recently in Bulawayo, 16 commuters were injured in an accident which happened when police threw spikes at a fleeing kombi.

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