Nqobile Tshili, Chronicle Reporter
TWO women from Bulawayo had to seek medical treatment after allegedly being brutally assaulted for hours with batons on their backs, hips and legs by police officers who accused them of violating the ongoing national lockdown.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi yesterday, without giving details, said six people had been arrested over the incident.
The officers allegedly detained the women overnight at Cowdray Park police base after refusing to let them pay fines.
The siblings, names withheld, were arrested on April 16 at a supermarket in the suburb where they had gone to buy food for their children.
Pictures of the battered and bruised women have since gone viral on social media. Under the lockdown imposed by Government to contain the spread of the deadly Covid-19, only essential service staff and people seeking vital services like medication or buying food are allowed outdoors.
The women alleged three cops picked them out from a queue at the supermarket and cuffed their hands behind their backs.
The officers allegedly force-marched the victims through a bush to Cowdray Park Police Base, making frequent stops along the way to beat them with the batons.
The siblings alleged two male police officers would force them to sit down before asaulting them with batons while hurling insults at them.
The women’s ordeal continued at the police base where the officers allegedly made them sit behind a parked vehicle and took turns to assault them with batons. “They told us they would teach us a lesson. They said they wanted to show us that they had better women than us at their homes. They said our being yellow boned (light skinned) did not exempt us from the stay at home order,” said one of the sisters with tears trickling down her cheeks.
“We asked them why they were beating us and they said we were rude.”
The sisters said the police refused to let their relatives pay fines for them and kept them at the base overnight. They said their reltives wanted to take them to hospital because their buttocks and hips were swollen. “The pain was excruciating yet they refused to let us seek medical attention. We were eventually fined $200 each the following day in the afternoon. That is when relatives took us to Mpilo (Central Hospital) for treatment,” said one of the victims.
Asst Commissioner Nyathi condemned the heavy-handed approach to law enforcement by the police officers. “We have six suspects who are appearing in court tomorrow. That is what we can say for now,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Pressed to confirm if all the suspects are police officers he said: “We will release more information soon but what we can assure the public is that the case has been investigated and is being well handled. Nothing has been swept under the carpet. That is why we are taking the case to court.”
Asst Comm Nyathi said police officers should be professional while executing their duties.
“They should not get carried away when they perform their duties. They should stick to the mandate which the police have in terms of the constitution of the country, in terms of the deployment which would have been done by their commanders. So, anyone who goes outside the deployment order and does their own things will face the full the wrath of the law,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
The National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) yesterday said they assisted the victims to make a formal report.
NPRC investigators led by Commissioner Leslie Ncube who is in charge of the three Matabeleland provinces said they had to intervene because any form of violence is not tolerated and is a threat to peace in society.
Comm Ncube said he was shocked by the level of abuse the women were subjected to.
“They were brutally attacked by male police officers who beat them on the thighs and buttocks while insulting them. We are told that the officers were insulting them using derogatory language which also fuels ethnical hatred. The victims told us that the officers were telling them that there is nothing special with their hips as they also have wives with even bigger hips. So clearly the police officers became too personal instead of executing their police duties.”
“The police are supposed to be the custodians of law and are supposed to protect the lives of the vulnerable in our society. We condemn the behaviour of the said police officers. The victims were allegedly insulted. Such actions are not expected from the police officers especially in an independent Zimbabwe,” said Comm Ncube.
He said the commission will assist the victims to get trauma counselling.— @nqotshili.