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Police brutality case: Lawyers argue right to fair trial violated

Lawyers representing six police officers who are accused of allegedly brutally assaulting two women from Cowdray Park while enforcing lockdown regulations have raised concerns that their clients’ constitutional rights are being violated. 

Maclean Mahaso and Nkosiyabo Sibanda of Tanaka Law Chambers, Tuesday, made an application for exception of the charges citing that due to the nature of case, the police officers’ right to a fair trial is uncertain. 

According to the State, the police officers handcuffed, assaulted, labelled ‘prostitutes’ and tribally insulted the two women (who are sisters) Ntombizodwa and Nokuthula Mpofu after they had gone to the shops to buy some foodstuffs on April 16.

Simbarashe Bvekwa (26), Tichaona Zariro (34), Patson Gumoreyi (30) Elizabeth Denhere (41), Zibusiso Masuku (27) and Christabel Munyondo, (28) who are all employed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are each facing two counts of assault.

Mahaso argued that the manner in which the case was handled violates the right to a fair trial and also strips the accused persons of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. 

“Your Worship, the charges levelled against the accused persons infringe their right to fair trial as well as the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Mahaso said. 

“Furthermore, pictures of the accused persons were circulated on social media platforms even before an identification parade was carried out. By so doing their identity was disclosed to members of the public. It is the mandate of this court to ensure that the rights of the accused persons are not neglected.”

Mahaso further argued that the charges on the State papers should have singled out the role played by each accused person instead of blanketing all of them under the same charges.

“There are six accused persons here and it is practically impossible to allege that they all played the same role in the commission of the offense. The allegations should have clearly stated who played which role during the commission of the offense,” he said. 

For the State, Kenneth Shava pleaded with the court that they be given enough time to respond to submissions made by the defence counsel. 

Western Commonage Magistrate Gladmore Mushowe ordered that the State submits its written responses by end of day on Tuesday. 

Magistrate Mushowe postponed the matter to tomorrow for ruling on the application. 

Shava narrated to the court that on April 16, 2020, at around 12 pm the accused persons were on duty enforcing lockdown regulations.

He said they met Ntombizodwa and Nokuthula Mpofu at TM supermarket in Cowdray Parkand asked them where they were going.

“The two women told them they were coming from buying meat from the butchery. They grabbed them by the hands and hit them with a baton stick several times on their buttocks,” Shava said.

“During the process, Ntombizodwa’s cellphone, which was in her back pocket got damaged. She then approached the accused persons to tell them that they had damaged her phone.”

Shava added that the accused persons went on further to take turns to assault the two women on their buttocks and hips several times, insulting them with obscenities and degrading them over their tribal affiliations.

“The two women were then handcuffed and force marched to the Cowdray Park police base. They were released on April 17 after paying a fine of ZWL$200 each,” Shava said.

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