DEFENCE minister Oppah Muchinguri has told Parliament that asking children to perform violence or take part in demonstrations must be punishable at law.
BY VENERANDA LANGA
Muchinguri was responding to a question by Zanu PF legislator Mail Nkomo (Proportional Representation), who wanted to know government policy on youths that were being used to take part in violence.
Nkomo alleged that youths were used in the January 14 to 16 violent demonstrations over fuel prices increase which resulted in looting of several shops and destruction of properties across the country.
The Justice for Children Trust reported that 19 minors aged between 15 and 17 years were arrested and appeared in courts for crimes such as looting and violence during the protests.
While some of the children might have committed offences, several parents also complained that some law enforcement agents pounced on innocent children while walking on the streets and rounded them up as criminals.
One of the juveniles, a 16-year-old girl from Epworth collapsed and bled from the mouth when she appeared with other juveniles in court. She was allegedly assaulted by police officers who kicked her in the head and ribs during her arrest.
“Children are not supposed to be used by organisations or persons to participate in such bad cases because international law and our own Zimbabwean laws do not allow people to use youths or children in demonstrations,” Muchinguri said.
“It is a practice that is frowned upon – that of abusing children. It causes the government to take stern steps because it is the government’s responsibility as the custodian of children, who are below the age of 18 to take care of them.
“If they are abused, be they by organisations, individuals, it is an issue that is punishable at law. Abused children should report such persons so that they can be dealt with according to the law,” she said.