Fires from burning tyres that raged fiercely last week on most roads in Harare’s Epworth and Mufakose during the mass protests have since fizzled into black soot.
By Phyllis Mbanje
But for the communities and the victims of police brutality, the memories are still fresh and will remain etched in their minds for a very long time.
For a young man in Mufakose who was dragged from his house and assaulted for doing absolutely nothing, it is but the beginning of a frightful journey to lice-infested remand prison until he is arraigned before the courts.
“He did not do anything wrong and was not part of the protests. He was sitting chatting casually with a fellow tenant when the riot police stormed our yard,” said a relative of the young man who was caught up in the violent door-to-door raid by the police that followed the Monday and Wednesday protests.
The woman was initially reluctant to speak to journalists when she was approached yesterday.
Suspicious of the crew, she demanded to know how the interview would help the young man who is now wallowing in prison and cannot raise bail money.
“Right now he is being held at Harare Central, we have no money for bail,” she says, fury written all over her face.
For a couple more minutes she refused to talk about the incident but she eventually poured her heart out.
“Is it a crime that our house is right by the corner where those responsible started the fires?” asked the woman who was struggling to contain her emotions.
The young man, according to her, never went outside the gate and did not go anywhere near the burning tyres by their gate.
“Initially the police came and asked me for buckets to douse the fire and after they were done, they handed them back to me,” said the woman.
She is angry that the people who started the fire are known but they were never arrested.
“Another group of police came and this time they were violent and the young man panicked and bolted,” she says as she wrings her soapy hands with frustration.
The riot police chased him and started assaulting the hapless young man.
“It was painful to see them attacking an innocent person yet they saw the gang that started the fire and ran away,” she casts a nervous glance at a group of young men lounging just outside her gate.
Helpless, they watched him being kicked, pummelled and shoved before being bundled into a police car.
He appeared in court and was granted $100 bail but is failing to raise the money.
“How can he raise such an amount when he is unemployed? Where is the justice in this country?” says the woman who has since made a decision not to participate in any elections nor attend any political gathering.
In Mufakose yesterday it was clear that although the community was trying to get on with life, fear, anger and bitterness was still in the air.
In Epworth, which was another hot spot, the residents had no kind words for the police but no one dared to speak on camera.
At Chiremba shops, the overcrowded centre was a bustle of life but something had changed. People were wary of strangers. Victims of police brutality were scared to speak out.
“We were beaten and harassed and yet we were only expressing our constitutional rights,” said one youth before walking away quickly.
Another victim limped away as the crew approached him. He was afraid and did not seem to trust anyone. He is out on bail and does not know what his future holds.
As the crew moved around the squalid shopping centre, people spoke in hushed tones and quickly dispersed when a stranger approached.
Nearby residents whose houses were attacked with teargas were as furious as they were scared.
The children were still traumatised and many refused to venture outside their gates. Unconfirmed reports said two infants died as a result of tear gas inhalation.
“There are two children from Mathew Rusike Road who died because of the teargas,” said one young woman who seemed eager to speak, but was soon silenced by her fearful peers.
At least 100 people from Ruwa, Mufakose, Mabvuku and Epworth were arrested after the police clampdown.