Battered protesters at a loss for words on police brutality

The Glen View women who were arrested by police last Saturday for participating in a protest by opposition parties under the banner of National Electoral reform Agenda (Nera) have recounted harrowing experiences at the hands of the law enforcement agents.

The Glen View women who were arrested by police last Saturday for participating in a protest by opposition parties under the banner of National Electoral reform Agenda (Nera) have recounted harrowing experiences at the hands of the law enforcement agents.

news in depth BY EVERSON MUSHAVA

Riot police has not been sympathetic with protesters
Riot police has not been sympathetic with protesters

The abuses came to light after gory pictures of Esther Mutsigiri, Gladys Musindo and Beatrice Rutsvara were taken and published at Mbare Magistrates’ court last Monday as evidence of police brutality.

The pictures showed the women’s badly-injured backsides. Some of them had difficulties sitting and had to attend the whole court session on Monday while lying on their bellies.

The Standard on Wednesday caught up with Mutsigiri and Musindo upon their admission at a Harare private hospital to receive medical attention. That was after they had been released on $400 bail each.

Mutsigiri and Musindo were arrested the same day that five opposition MPs — Trevor Saruwaka (Mutasa Central), Fani Munengami (Glen View North), Ronia Bunjira (Harare), Lillian Timveos (Senator Midlands) and Nomatemba Ndlovu (Gwanda Central) — were also arrested.

The women gave harrowing tales of police brutality whereby they were assaulted intermittently from 10am when they were apprehended until 6pm when they were put in official detention.

The two said the police took turns to assault them and at times kicked and stepped on them while they lay at the back of a police truck. This continued for many hours before they were finally surrendered to the police station.

They said they would not forget the eight-hour ordeal in their lifetime. They claim they were beaten the whole day, and the situation worsened when the police officers allegedly became drunk after taking beer at a birthday party of a police officer’s son in Kuwadzana.

The abuse did not end in the truck. It continued after they were booked for detention at the police station. They were denied medical treatment even when they bled from the wounds inflicted during the heavy assault with batons. Later on, they said they were forced to take an overdose of painkillers.

Mutsigiri, who opted to describe herself as an activist, said: “When the police apprehended me, a police officer identified as Gaffer slapped me in the face. I became confused and started hallucinating.”

“One of the senior police officers ordered me into the truck and I told him I was so confused from the open hand assault that I could not see the entrance of the truck. He, however, laughed and told me in a threatening manner that I would soon find the entrance. He slapped me hard and true to his words, I don’t know how, but I found myself in the truck,” she said.

While in the truck, she together with others allegedly received a flurry of blows with clenched fists and batons that sent them flying from one corner of the truck to the other.

“They continued to beat me and when I tried to block them, they got really angry and the beatings became worse” Mutsigiri said.

“They ordered us to lie on our bellies and took turns to whip our backsides, and stepped on us. They would stop and continue anytime they felt like. When they discovered that our backs were swollen, they ordered us to sit on our buttocks so that the swelling would not get worse.”

She said one of them boastfully claimed they would be rewarded for arresting and assaulting them.

“We will get food for arresting and beating you. If we apprehend 12 more, we will be given Chicken Inn and a further number, we will get pizzas and you say Mugabe is bad and he should go, what do you mean?” Mutsigiri quoted one of the police officers as having boasted.

She claimed that they were taken to Kuwadzana where the police officers joined a birthday party and from there they were taken to Kuwadzana police station where the police officers were given more food.

“They started assaulting us with baton sticks again while we lay on our bellies. Somehow I braved a question and asked them why they called one of them Gaffer and the answer was that he got the name because he can kill. They also harassed one police officer with the name Kaseke whom they said was being lenient with us,” Mutsigiri added.

“After we had been assaulted and could no longer sit, the police officers started arguing on what to do with us. Some of them said it would not be prudent of them to detain us in our state. They said detaining us would expose the brutality. They, however, had no choice because they had already reported at the station that they had arrested us.”

While in custody, the detainees said they were not allowed medication, but would be given an overdose of amoxicillin and paracetamol tablets.

“They gave us three amoxicillin and three paracetamol tablets each and ordered us to take all the six at once. Having taken the tablets, I started experiencing various kinds of pain, including headaches, stomach aches, and heartaches and so on,” Mutsigiri said.

“When we were released, they told us that we should take two amoxicillin tablets each, not three as they told us what to do in remand prison.”

She added: “When we asked to go for treatment, the police refused, saying our situation was a hot potato. They said if we went to hospital, we would report that we had been assaulted by the police.”

“Yes, they beat us but that will not stop me from protesting. They have strengthened us. It is not like we are not demonstrating for a worthy cause,” Mutsigiri said.

Musindo, a Joice Mujuru’s ZimPF supporter and mother of two suffered a swollen eye, bruised leg and lacerated backside. She said each time she recalled the manner in which they were assaulted, it appeared like a horror movie.

“They beat us from morning until they surrendered us to the station at 6pm. I have never experienced such cruelty,” Musindo said moments before she was whisked away to have an X-Ray taken.

“While we were in Kuwadzana, the police beat up a certain man and threw him out of their moving truck. We later saw him at Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison; he was there, just lying down without moving. I think he broke his back.”

Munengami tried to beg with the police to stop the indiscriminate attacks on women but his plea fell on deaf ears.

Musindo’s husband, William Phiri said he would not join politics after the gruesome attack on his wife.

Nera last week suspended protests in Chitungwiza to attend to victims of last week’s police raids.