Six leaders of Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union (ARTUZ), including their lawyer Doug Coltart, and journalist Leopold Munhende have threatened to sue the state for the unlawful arrest, assault and detention by the police during a peaceful protest held last year on August 23 2019, dubbed ‘’Pay Day Funeral” outside the ministry of Finance offices in Harare.
By Marshall Bwanya
Aggrieved ARTUZ leaders were last year harassed, assaulted, unlawfully arrested and charged with being a “public nuisance’” while protesting over poor salaries, accompanied by their lawyer Doug Coltart.
The complainants on Wednesday, through their attorneys the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights (ZLHR) served the Ministry of Home affairs with a notice, in terms of the state liabilities Act, of the intention to sue for damages for the alleged unlawful arrest, detention, assault and malicious prosecution perpetrated by the police.
Doug Coltart noted that course of legal action against the police was engineered to expose and stop police brutality.
“We are suing the police primarily for accountability purposes, this is not about us or particular police officers, but about a culture of police brutality which has become so pervasive in our country.
“At the very least we will expose the brutality through the court proceedings, government and individual officers sued in their personal capacity should feel the pinch and desist from brutalising or arresting a citizen for no lawful purposes that serve a political agenda.
”So many people suffer the brand of police brutality and we are a people in a position to sue to try and put a stop to this and say ‘enough is enough,’ this is not how police should be treating ordinary citizens. Police are meant to protect citizens instead of inflicting human rights abuses against them.
Coltart expressed concern that they were seeking justice at a time when our own Prosecutor General has admitted the current criminal justice system was captured and compromised by cartels.
“There are very deep problems in our justice system, even our prosecutor general has admitted that the justice system has been captured by cartels.
“Certainly those are the challenges we are aware of however, we feel strongly that it important to keep providing the system with an opportunity to provide justice.
“We hope in this case we will prevail, we know of course that are still some good elements within the justice system, some upright people even though there are working in a broken system.
ARTUZ president Obert Masaraure said the legal action being undertaken against the police was a strategic step to protect the right to demonstrate and petition enshrined in the Constitution.
“Zimbabwe’s police are now notorious for violating human rights with impunity. This action is a strategic step to protect the right to demonstrate and petition.
“The development of this great nation will only be realised if people are allowed to peacefully register discontent when duty bearers sleep on duty,” he said.
Last year the nation underwent rapid deteriorating political, economic, and socio-economic conditions when the current incumbent failed to resuscitate the ailing economy and enact progressive political and democratic reforms.
Government’s failures in 2019, sparked a wave of protests by the main Chamisa led MDC, civic society and unions disgruntled by the deteriorating political and economic conditions.
These anti-government demonstrations branded as regime change proxies thwarted unlawfully and violently by the security forces.
Journalists, vendors and bystanders were caught in the cross fire forced to endure the wrath of state violence.
NewZimbabwe.com journalist Leopold Munhende narrated his ordeal and said in pursuing legal action against the state, he was seeking justice and wanted stop the Impunity for crimes against Journalists.
“Police officers harassed and detained me for the greater part of the day last August while on official work business covering a demonstration by the ARTUZ. They dismissed my efforts to explain that I was at work and threatened to beat me up if I continue to produce my Press Card.
“The fight is against a culture of impunity, journalists have been harassed, assaulted and like in the case of Itai Dzamara abducted by state security agents who continue not to show remorse.
“I hope justice will prevail and it will be a lesson to future perpetrators within that sector that they are not above the law,” he said.
In the notice served to the Ministry of Home affairs the complainants argued that the police’s actions on August 23 2019 constituted gross human rights violations in terms of our Constitutional and international law, particularly the right to human dignity and freedom of degrading treatment (Section 51 and 53), the right to personal security (section 52), right to personal liberty (section 49) and the rights of arrested and detained persons (section 50).
In the notice to sue document, Superintend R Kutyaripo, Tafadzwa Kapfunde, Constable Simbarashe Zenda, Goodwill Mazhowe, Climate Chengeta, Farai Makaya among others were cited as the perpetrators of premeditated malicious arrests by uniformed police officers.