Zimbabwe Rights Commission probes police shootings on armed robbers

Amid fears some of the killings could be targeted executions against suspects

By Caleb Chikwawawa

Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) chairperson Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi says the quasi-government rights watchdog has opened investigations into recent police killings on armed robbery suspects in cases that have often resulted in their deaths.

This comes after cabinet has approved the abolishment of the death penalty in a stance which has a wide bearing on the outcome of a law soon to be introduced to scrape capital punishment.

Zimbabwe last exercised the death penalty back in 2005.

Some stakeholders feel the victory obtained through relentless lobbying for the scrapping of the death penalty was futile if police continued shooting and killing suspects without benefit of a trial in courts of law.

There are concerns in some circles that police could be overstepping their bounds through what they suspect could be deliberate executions on some of the criminals in incidents that could be disguised as shootouts with criminals.

Last week, armed robbery suspect Godknows Machingura’s family demanded an independent inquiry into his shooting, citing disparities between the police version of events and the findings of the autopsy.

Machingura, a well-known music promoter, was fatally shot by detectives from the Harare CID homicide unit in a highly publicised incident that took place in December of last year.

Responding to written questions by Zimstar News, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission chairperson Elasto Hilarious Mugwadi said police shootings have been put under the microscope through the commission’s Monitoring and Inspections Department.

“The mandate of the ZHRC is to promote, protect and enforce human rights and fundamental freedoms,” Mugwadi said.

“It also protects people from abuse of power and maladministration by State institutions and State officials.

“One of the ways we do that is through monitoring and inspections. The Monitoring and Inspections department was established to fulfil the provisions of section 243(1)(c) and 243(1)(k) of the Constitution on assessing observance of human rights and freedoms.

“Through this department’s functions, this matter of police shooting and killing of armed robbers was flagged down and brought to the Commission’s attention.

“The ZHRC is currently investigating the matter and assessing it against the standards outlined in the Zimbabwean Constitution.

“In terms of Section 70(1)(a), every person accused of an offence is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

“This fundamental principle is the basis for the constitutional requirement that a suspected person must undergo a trial before being pronounced guilty of any crime.

“It is of utmost importance to stress that every individual, even those who may be accused of committing a crime, is still a human being who deserves to be treated with respect and dignity.

“In addition however, the law permits the police to use deadly force under certain circumstances, such as when the officer has a reasonable belief that the individual in question poses an immediate risk of death or serious physical harm to themselves or others.

“The ZHRC is currently conducting Investigations and chooses to refrain from making any conclusions until all the necessary information has been gathered.

“Once the Monitoring and Inspections department report is completed and released to the public domain, you will be advised.”

In December last year, three armed robbery suspects were shot dead by police in Kadoma after they were linked to a spate of school burglaries in parts of the country.

Two weeks ago, police detectives shot and killed armed robbery suspects Pride Moyo, Newman Ncube and Ntokozo Ncube during what they described as a shootout incident which occurred at Tuli River, Gwanda.

Lately Wednesday last week, detectives shot and killed armed robbery suspect Pardon Shoko whom they trailed to Ngundu growth point in Masvingo.

There are growing fears among some activists that if left unchecked, the killings could end up targeting innocent citizens who may not be in favour with police or government at the time.

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