Prosper Dembedza Herald Correspondent
A 10-year-old girl is battling for life at Parirenyatwa Hospital after she was knocked down by a speeding commuter omnibus in Harare while seven municipal police officers were hospitalised following brutal attacks with weapons by touts and kombi crews resisting Harare council’s bid to rid the city of unruly drivers and unregistered taxis.
The officers were attacked while enforcing traffic by-laws under an operation code-named “Scorpion” to clear illegal passenger pick-up points popularly known as “mishikashika”. along Julius Nyerere Way
The melee that saw one municipal officer being thrown out of a moving kombi brought in the police who managed to arrest at 43 suspects, mainly kombi crews.
The suspects were by late night still at Harare Central Police Station assisting police with investigations.
Sources said the girl (name withheld), who was celebrating her 10th birthday yesterday, was knocked down by a kombi that was picking up commuters from an undesignated point as it tried to flee from approaching municipal police officers.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba confirmed the skirmishes and the arrest of 43 kombi crews and touts.
“Yes, I can confirm the skirmishes that took place in town this afternoon where seven municipal police officers were attacked with stones by kombi crews who were resisting their operation. From the incident, we arrested 43 hooligans,” she said.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the police would deal ruthlessly with kombi crews who caused chaos and endangered the lives of innocent people in the city.
“As the police, we are going to deal with these hooligans ruthlessly because we are there to maintain law and order in the country,” she said.
When The Herald visited the injured people at Parirenyatwa Hospital yesterday, the 10-year-old girl was still lying on a stretcher, waiting for a doctor to attend to her.
Her mother, who declined to be named, said she was shocked to see her daughter flying in front of her after being hit by the kombi.
“We were standing on a pavement along Jason Moyo Avenue intending to cross the road when suddenly I saw my daughter flying over the road after she was knocked by a kombi that was fleeing municipal police officers,” she said.
She said she was concerned over the fate of her daughter who was celebrating 10 years.
One of the municipal police officers who was seriously injured, Mr Ian Musariri (32), said he was attacked by the kombi crews who were resisting the operation to clean up the city.
‘’I only heard the kombi crews shouting that I was one of the municipal cops and one of them hit me on the chin with a spike. I fell to the ground and they started kicking me all over the body,” he said.
Mr Musariri said he suspected his right leg could be fractured as a result of the attack as he was yet to see a doctor when the Herald crew arrived.
Another municipal officer, Ms Precious Muredzi (33), said she was thrown out of a moving commuter omnibus by a kombi crew she had apprehended.
“When I fell on the tarmac, touts joined and started kicking me all over the body.”
Other officers – Ms Sharon Dombo (29), Mrs Monica Chiomba (42), Mr Ben Rukwava (29) and Aaron Madondo (45) – were also attacked.
Said Rukwava: “As I jumped from our truck intending to apprehend the culprits, I was attacked with missiles from all directions.”
Harare City acting corporate communications manager Mr Michael Chideme confirmed the incident saying seven of their officers were injured during the skirmishes.
“Yes, seven of our police officers were attacked by rowdy kombi crews as they were carrying out an operation against mishikashika and illegal vending. One of them is in a critical condition,” he said.
He said the public should not view municipal police officers as their enemies, but as people trying to restore sanity in cities and towns.
“The public should respect and protect municipal police officers because they protect the interests of all residents,” said Mr Chideme.
Mr Chideme said council was adopting zero tolerance towards mishikashika and illegal vending.