Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
On January 25, 2017, a 43-year-old hardworking mother of three had just finished her day’s work when law enforcement gone wild changed her life for the worst.
After wrapping up her duties at her place of work in Milton Park, Narai Chituwu was looking forward to commuting home as she has always done.
Little did she know that the commuter omnibus she boarded at Prince Edward School would be her charter to a place of unimaginable pain. Her plans to rush home and rest were cruelly replaced by prolonged bleeding which she remembers vividly.
“I finished work around 19:45 and boarded a commuter omnibus at Prince Edward. It took less than 10 minutes to get to the rank. When we got to the rank I decided to remain seated as the other passengers disembarked as I wanted to avoid the pressure,” she said.
Up to now she regrets her decision.
“Getting down with my back towards the door, I felt a sharp prick in my left leg and I fell out of the kombi,” she said.
A police officer had placed a spike under the vehicle as Chituwu was about to step on the tarmac and one of the spikes pierced her right leg slightly above the ankle.
“I must have passed out. In fact, I blacked out and when I started recalling what was happening there was a swelling crowd around me. I felt an intense pain in my chest at that point while my leg was still numb,” she said.
Luckily when Chituwu called her younger sister, she responded quickly and they immediately sought recourse.
“After the accident we went to Harare Central Police Station to report what had happened. The police officers had fled the scene and we did not have any money on us.
“I had to brave the pain because there was no option,” she said.
When they got to the police station, they received a shocker.
“At Harare Central we spoke to Officer Matsikidze who told us that it was unlikely that the spike- throwing police officer was from the ZRP.
“According to him, 8pm was way beyond knock-off time for traffic officers,” Chituwu said chronicling how the officer denied that it could be one of them.
She was told that the police officers who injured her could have been from the Harare City Council, but Chituwu maintains that thereas no way she could have mistaken the identity of those responsible.
Armed with a letter for her to get treatment and a far from satisfactory response from the police, she headed to Parirenyatwa Hospital to get her injured leg attended to.
“At Parirenyatwa, I received a tetanus shot and they dressed the wound. I was told to visit a conveniently located clinic for cleaning and application of medicine,” Chituwu said.
The challenge was Chituwu could not walk and for each visit to the clinic she parted with nothing less than $5 for taxi fare.
The high cost led her to take the DIY route to treating her wound.
“I did not have money to constantly visit the clinic. So I have been applying Betadine, G and I and salt on the wound to keep it from getting septic as it heals,” she said.
However, the healing process has taken longer than expected and her immobility has exposed her to a number of social challenges.
She had spent years looking for a job and the gods had smiled on her when she was employed as a maid in August last year, only to suffer this setback four months later.
“I have not been to work since January, although my employers stopped paying me they said when I heal I can resume my duties. I am just worried that the process is taking way too long and someone may permanently replace me,” a teary Chituwu said.
Her family in Harare also seems to have turned their back on her since she plunged into her predicament.
“When I got injured I was staying with my younger sister in Warren Park. Relatives told me to return to the rural areas since I was no longer able to go to work,” Chituwu narrated how she ended up staying with a friend, Netsai Nzungu, in Belvedere West.
She left her younger sister’s home at the beginning of June after constant pressure and misunderstandings.
Chituwu says going back to her rural home in Guruve is not an option as she has three children to look after. Two of the children are of school-going age and stay with her mother, who is solely dependent on her.
“Even if I were to heed the call by relatives to go back to Guruve, how would my family survive? What would we eat? I feel bad as it is that I have not been visiting them every month like I used to,” she said.
She regrets not being able to play an active motherly role to her children owing to her injury-induced absence.
“My first daughter, who is 20, recently eloped and it breaks my heart that I have not been able to attend to the issue. Although I cannot travel to see her, I hope she is safe,” Chituwu said, breaking into tears.
With the unforgiving winter this year, the pain that was subsiding is slowly creeping back and Chituwu is now reliant Cloxacilin and a cocktail of other antibiotcs and painkillers.
She is aware of the legal path she could take and is hoping the officers behind her injury will come forward at least to apologise and help her foot her medical costs.
“Given a choice I would be suffering in silence. I would have preferred to be in the papers for positive things. Quite honestly, I feel robbed, I would trade anything to get my normal life back,” said Chituwu.
She added that she has sought legal help and is waiting for the way forward from the lawyer who reached out to help from the Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association.
“My life has been hell over the past six months and I would like compensation. Right now my children are being sent home from school because of fees arrears. This would not have happened if I was able to walk, I need to be compensated to be able to cover all the debts I have accrued,” she said.
Her injury might be better than it was in January but the worst is far from over.
“I have made progress but honestly I do not know how much time it will take for me to heal. I just hope I do not lose the whole year,” Chituwu said. She added; “If I could get someone to help me with start money, I could run a small vegetable stall in the meantime to help foot bills here.
“My friend is a maid also and her earnings are being strained since she has her own children to look after.” Her case is one of the many that have prompted members of the public to call for the ban of police spikes on the street.
Although the initial use of spikes may be justified, the unintended consequences have threatened the safety and well-being of innocent individuals like Chituwu.
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