Today I came face to face with the reality of where we really are as a nation. I’ve always said and truly believed that our nation is not free but at times we say it without a deeper understanding of what it means.
Earlier today together with a few colleagues we attended in solidarity the bail ruling for the 10 vendors who were arrested in the Harare CBD last week. There were supposed to be 11 but the 1st accused Tafadzwa Hilton Tamangani was not able to be in court 6 today, why? Because his body was lying cold in a mortuary somewhere. He died in custody after he was brutally tortured by the police in police custody.
As I went to court I was quite aware that there would be a heavy police presence at the courts today because a call had been made for people to come in solidarity. As sure as just the sun will rise in the morning and set in the evening, they were there, 2 truckloads of well armed and kitted anti riot police outside Rotten Row. What I was not prepared for was their presence inside Court 6, besides the 1 that is always there for court proceedings, there were 6 just outside the entrance and about 10 inside the court room. Open intimidation.
We had on our palms written “ndini Tafadzwa” (I am Tafadzwa)and as the 10 were brought into court we raised our hands high in the air as a sign of solidarity. It was heart wrenching! As they stood in the dock a few of them noticed and nodded in acknowledgement, some just looked down, crying.
Early on the magistrate had wanted to give her ruling in the absence of the 10 but their lawyers protested and demanded that she waits until their clients arrived. When they eventually came, their lawyers made 2 applications 1 for the court to order the state to allow the accused to seek private medical assistance and 2 for an independent post-mortem to be carried out on the remains of the deceased.
A few of us broke down as the lawyer made it known to the magistrate that the 1st accused was not in the dock because he had died on Friday. What was heartbreaking was to know that first he was denied access to a hospital by the police, then he was denied again by prisons services. I could not contain it, tears just started rolling down my cheeks, I looked to the dock and the ten had their heads bowed down obviously crying. I was hurt, I looked at these police officers and asked myself how? I looked at the prosecutor, I looked at the magistrate and wondered how do these people even sleep at night? Just another day in the office?
What has happened to us? How did we get here that a young man arrested by the police can be beaten to the point of dying? How?
The lawyer made it clear that the state through its actors can not be trusted anymore (yes we knew that, but goodness, this is a whole new level) the state has effectively made it its business to violate the rights of accused persons and one is no longer safe in the hands of the state.
What hurts is that nothing will be done to the policemen who beat up Tafadzwa, the young man is said to have died in pain with his back having turned purple. Life goes on and no one loses their job, forget being held accountable for it. Nothing! The President is silent about it too. In other countries there would have been an uproar and an inquiry already into what happened. Not here, here it’s fine, it’s ok really.
The ruling was then given and the 10 got bail but for Tafadzwa and his family it’s all meaningless now, he is gone forever!
As we left the court a few people broke into song and sang “ndimi makauraya”, just as we stepped outside and the singing carried on, the police pounced on us!
People ran for dear life but a few of us just stood there baffled by it all. Right in front of the courts and in front of the cameras the police were jumping us! They arrested 3 people and as I write Makomborero Haruzivishe, Danford Ngadziwore and Jonah Matoratora are in police cells. The police gave chase to those that were running and I watched in horror as one police man tried to trip the legs of this one guy who was running (I’m sure most of us remember the picture of that policeman who was trying to trip a demonstrator from behind at that failed MDC march) that is what we witnessed and it was right on the tarmac, thank goodness he missed him otherwise we would have been talking different story. That is the attitude of our police, they are ready to go for the kill.
The 3 arrested were taken to the 2 trucks waiting outside. I accompanied lawyer and friend Doug Coltart who wanted to find out from the police where the 3 were going to be taken. He asked but none of them responded, he got out of the car and went over to them and I remained in the car, after a brief exchange with them he went off to ask another group of officers standing a little further away.
The remaining policemen had not noticed that there was someone in the car and after Doug left one of the said “Isu tinenge tichitoda kutomamisa even varungu ivava”, ” vanoda kurohwa ava” another one responded. I could not believe my ears. So this is it, when we think these guys are forced to beat up people, we are wrong! These guys are very happy doing their job. This is how young Tafadzwa died, akamamiswa nemapurisa!
We then went to Harare Central Police where we eventually found them, we left them with their lawyer attending to them, the police had not yet given them a charge.
I went away reflecting on the words of former Vice President Joshua Nkomo who once said “The hardest lesson of my life has come to me late. It is that a nation can win freedom without its people becoming free.”
Zimbabwe is not a free country! That’s just what’s there, we have to be honest with ourselves. We can not carry on lying to ourselves, we are under oppression!
Cry my beloved country #NotYetUhuru
Source: Marshall Shonhai