A 47-YEAR-OLD Harare female vendor, Sophia Tigere, is seeking to sue Harare municipal police after she was brutally assaulted following the confiscation of her goods on January 5.
by Own Correspondent
After the brutal assault, Tigere had to seek medical attention at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and a medical affidavit by Dr TA Nyamukachi, on January 6 showed that she sustained multiple bruises on both arms and forearms.
Tigere, who is the sole breadwinner in her family, said on January 5, municipal police officers came during a raid and confiscated her goods and those of other vendors.
“They then told us to come to their Coventry Road offices to pay fines so that we could get our goods back. I went to the Coventry Road offices at around 4pm and they told me I was late and should come back the following day,” she said.
“The following day, I went back at around 9am and the municipal cops demanded that I should give them a bribe and when I resisted, a male officer started hurling all sorts of insults at me.”
Tigere claims she was punished for being a member of the National Vendors’ Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ), which has often been labelled as an appendage of the opposition.
“When I told him that I had a constitutional right to belong to any organisation, the male officer became hostile and hit me on the back with a baton stick.
About five others joined in to assault me when I tried to resist. They tore my clothes and handcuffed me and put me into their van, saying they were taking me to the police,” the aggrieved Tigere said.
“Later on, they told me that I was free and could go, but I told them that I was not leaving the place without my goods and they threatened to set dogs on me. At around 5pm, the cops who had assaulted me told me that they had finished their work for the day, but I told them I would sleep at the place until I got my goods back.”
She said at around 8:30pm, a security guard arranged transport for her to go into town where she proceeded to Harare Central Police Station and made a report.
NAVUZ chairperson Sten Zvorwadza said the abuse of female vendors was a serious cause for concern.
“As NAVUZ, we are deeply concerned that on a daily basis, our members are assaulted on the streets. The municipal cops seem to have become quite hostile to known NAVUZ members. As a union, we shall continue engaging the authorities so that this issue is addressed,” he said.
“It is quite disturbing that in some cases, the vendors are being victimised for having refused to pay bribes or for having turned down sexual demands by the municipal cops. We are also concerned over the manner in which vendors’ cases are being handled by the police. We will explore all the available avenues to seek justice for our victimised members.”
When contacted for comment, Harare City Council spokesperson Michael Chideme said they had not received any complaints of abuse.