The death of a Harare vendor in remand prison after he was allegedly tortured during interrogation is yet another indication that old habits in the police force have not been banished.
Hilton Tamangani died at Harare Remand Prison Friday after he was allegedly tortured following his arrest last week along with 10 other vendors.
The vendors were accused of stashing police helmets at a basement of a building in the capital’s central business district.
According to the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services refused to entertain requests for Tamangani to be treated by private doctors before he succumbed to injuries sustained during the alleged torture.
After much hullabaloo, it emerged during the course of the week that some of the helmets that police claim to have recovered were legitimately bought by a Harare businessman.
There are chances that the vendors are not in any way connected to the helmets and yet Tamangani has already paid with his life.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police on Friday claimed that one of the helmets belonged to a police officer, who was killed during protests in 2016.
A professional and transparent investigation is now more than a necessity following Tamangani’s death in custody. Police officers that allegedly tortured him must be held to account.
As if that was not enough, an Alpha Media Holdings journalist, Rutendo Muchenje was assaulted by police officers while doing her job in Harare yesterday.
The incidents are an apt reminder of the deeper malaise eating into the core of the country’s police force, which can be traced to the Robert Mugabe years.
It did not come as a surprise that during the coup that toppled Mugabe in 2007, the ZRP became one of the state institutions that felt the citizens’ anger.
Zimbabweans vented their anger at the police after years of brutality against dissenting voices and deep seated corruption.
The new administration noticed the anger and several promises were made that the ZRP would be transformed.
There is no evidence, however, that those reforms are taking place and the tone of the police when commenting on issues linked to organisations that are perceived to be anti-government are becoming another reminder of Zimbabwe under Mugabe.
The world will be watching very closely the way Tamangani’s case is handled, which would be a stern test for the police to prove that indeed they are “a new dispensation” institution.