BY VENERANDA LANGA
A Harare vendor died in remand prison yesterday after he was allegedly tortured by police, triggering an angry reaction from human rights defenders.
Tafadzwa Hilton Tamangani was one of the 11 vendors that were arrested near the MDC headqauters in central Harare during a police crackdown that followed the recent discovery of old police helmets at a nearby building.
A Harare businessman has since claimed some of the helmets which he bought from an auction.
As the news of Tamangani’s death at Harare Remand Prison started filtering in, tension between the police and vendors in central Harare exploded into running battles.
There was heavy police presence for most of the day yesterday around the MDC headquarters and at the Ximex Mall.
Tamangani’s lawyer Marufu Mandevere said the vendor appeared in court last Monday in blood soaked clothes and could hardly walk.
Mandevere said they requested to take Tamangani to a private doctor after they discovered that he had a deep wound, but they were turned down.
“We appeared in court on Monday for initial remand hearing and the state was opposed to bail,” he said.
“When we appeared in court he was in a bad state, his shirt was full of blood and he could hardly walk.”
Tamangani’s bail hearing spilled into Wednesday.
“On Wednesday we were advised that the magistrate was not feeling well and the matter was further postponed to Thursday,” he said.
“On Thursday, we were told the magistrate was ill and had been given a three-day sick leave.
“The matter was postponed (by another magistrate) to Monday (tomorrow), October 21 at 8:30 am. The Court also ruled that Tamangani ought to be examined by prison doctors.
“Late on Friday, we received a distress call that he was seriously ill and that is when we wrote a letter to the prisons requesting that he be allowed to be treated by a doctor of his own choice.”
According to a letter to the Zimbabwe Prisons and Correctional Services dated October 18, Tamangani had developed a “fatal infection.”
“They declined to take the letter, only to later learn this morning that he is gone,” Mandevere said. He said Tamangani’s relatives were in the United Kingdom.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights spokesperson Kumbirai Mafunda described Tamangani’s death as yet another disregard for prisoners’ rights.
“There is an increase in the incidences of disregard for citizens’ fundamental freedoms,” he said.
“Someone should be held accountable for his death.
In a joint statement released last night, police and the ZPCS said they were investigating Tamangani’s death.
The statement said the outcome of the investigation would be made public once results of the post-mortem are released.