A Bulawayo man is battling for his life at Mpilo Hospital after he was allegedly shot by police officers in the early hours of Sunday.
The man has been identified as Emmanuel Mavunge (49) from Nkulumane suburb.
CITE understands that Mavunge and one Benson Mbaiwa were returning home after collecting firewood from Chesa forest near Green Gables on the outskirts of the city, when they met police officers who were on patrol.
According to Mbaiwa, the police officers were travelling in a Toyota Hilux opened fire at their vehicle without any warning shots resulting in Mavunge being shot in the back.
He was later rushed to Mpilo Hospital for medical treatment and is reportedly in a critical condition.
“We were coming from collecting firewood from Chesa forest at around 2am,” Mbaiwa narrated their ordeal to CITE.
“On our way back, we came across a Toyota Hilux which was going the opposite direction. It seems it made a U turn and followed us.
“The vehicle picked up speed and I told Mavunge who was driving to stop so we can find out what they wanted.
“The moment we stopped, the police officers opened fire without any warning shots. One of the bullets entered through the driver`s side and hit him in the back.”
Mbaiwa claimed they were in the business of selling firewood and they had delayed picking up their consignment as they had knocked off late from their workplaces.
“We are in the business of selling firewood but we knocked off late at work and the person we work with at Chesa Forest was pressuring us to collect the firewood that is why we had to travel around that time,” he said.
However, National Police Spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the pair were suspected firewood poachers and they failed to comply with police orders to stop their vehicle resulting in the shootout.
“The Pumula area has been giving problems to the City of Bulawayo and the police in terms of cases of stock theft and last week the City Council rangers had a shootout with people who were involved in stock theft and firewood poaching and one of the victims reported last week to the police that there were criminals who were targeting cattle and firewood (sic),” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.
“So last night a team of police officers who were accompanying the complainant while on patrol they came across a vehicle which they tried to stop and the driver did not stop, the police officers fired warning shots until there was a shootout and they then discovered that the vehicle was carrying firewood which had been poached from Pumula area. The injured person, which is very unfortunate was taken to the local hospital where he is currently admitted and the other person was also picked for questioning by the police (sic).”
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi said members of the public should not be involved in criminal activities.
“But what is important is, members of the public should not engage in criminal acts because what is clear is there are some people who have been stealing cattle, killing them, in the process they put the meat at the bottom with firewood on top, then they drive into the city during the night and the meat is sold in the suburbs of Bulawayo.
So, we want to urge the members of the public to conduct lawful business activities and at the end of the day not to engage in crime such that they end up running away from the law enforcement,” he said.