By Chris Mahove
A HARARE man, who was shot several times on both legs by the police in a case of mistaken identity during an investigation into the theft of a motor vehicle in 2010, has finally been paid ZWL$21 000 in compensation by the police, thanks to the efforts of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisation Forum.
Trevor Simbanegavi (31), said the money was deposited into his account early May this year after a long and tedious process during which the police had frantically tried to frustrate his efforts to get compensation.
“Initially, people used to discourage me, saying the police cannot be sued and it was difficult to win such cases. I went to the Legal Aid Department and was also told the same statement before I was later referred to the NGO Forum,” he said.
He said he received support from the Human Rights NGO Forum and managed, after almost two years of frustration, to get a court order in 2012 for the court to pay him a total of US $21 000 in compensation.
However, Simbanegavi said although the granting of compensation was a positive sign for victims of State torture, the amount was too little for him to live a comfortable life adding the money was most likely to be exhausted on medical expenses.
“The compensation just considered receipted costs which I incurred, but did not measure the degree of injury, whether I was able to walk again. I will possibly seek a review because the money has come after a long time and is not in United States dollars,” he said.
Simbanegavi, who was in the company of his young brother and a friend, was shot by a police officer in Avondale on December 8, 2010 after being mistaken for a gang that had stolen a car in Norton.
The then university student suffered a 63% disability, with an above knee amputation on his left leg and metal plates on the right leg after going for two weeks without treatment following the shooting. His friend later succumbed to the injuries while his young brother escaped unscathed.
He now walks on a prosthesis and clutch.
“We were parked at Number 35 Avonlea Drive when three armed police officers just came screeching their BMW vehicles. One of the armed officers, who I later identified as Alexander Jachi from Vehicle Theft Squad, came to me and ordered me to lie down, accusing me of stealing a car. As soon as I did, he started shooting at me before handcuffing me and bundling me, together with my friend who had been shot in the abdomen into their car,” Simbanegavi said.
He said they were driven around for more than four hours as they bled profusely before they were taken to Harare Hospital where he was kept under heavy police guard for two weeks.
“The police guard then just disappeared and we never heard anything from the police,” he said.
Human Rights NGO Forum executive director, Blessing Gorejena said payment of compensation by the government was a welcome gesture.
“We particularly welcome this development as it confirms the fact that there is a problem of torture and police brutality in the country. This affirms the calls by the forum to the government to ratify and domesticate the UN Convention against torture as well as criminalise torture,” Gorejena said.
She said Simbanegavi was among many victims of police brutality that the forum had been assisting over the past 20 years.
“It has been a struggle by the forum to ensure victims like Simbanegavi receive justice and some form of compensation from the government for the brutality suffered at the hands of State agents such as the police and army,’ she said.