Freeman Razemba and Tendai Mugabe
Police are investigating a case in which two people were killed in Harare on Thursday night following mayhem caused by an ill-advised decision by MDC-T-led Harare City Council to ban commuter omnibuses from the central business district (CBD).
Seven people, including three police officers, were injured in the skirmishes. Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga yesterday apologised for the incident and sent condolence messages to families of the deceased. He told a Press conference that police would investigate the matter to its logical conclusion.
“It is with a heavy heart and sadness that I wish to announce the death of two people in a very unfortunate and regrettable incident that occurred on the 22nd February 2018 in Harare central business district. I wish to express my sincere condolences to the bereaved families and relatives who lost their loved ones,” Comm-Gen Matanga said.
Comm-Gen Matanga’s sentiments followed a meeting he had with President Mnangagwa and Home Affairs Minister Dr Obert Mpofu.
At the meeting, President Mnangagwa said such disturbances should not happen again. Comm-Gen Matanga said a team of investigators had been set up to look into the matter.
“From the onset, let me categorically state that the Zimbabwe Republic Police is seized with this matter and I have since directed a team of expert investigators to extensively establish the cause, what transpired, who was responsible and action will be taken,” he said.
“These investigators will leave no stone unturned. Perpetrators will be brought to book and there are no sacred cows. Violence in whatever form is not tolerated.”
Comm-Gen Matanga said the clashes were between the police and members of the public. It was a culmination of an operation code-named “Clean-Up Harare Central Business District”, spearheaded by the City of Harare.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the police and other security agencies were assisting the Harare City Council to de-congest the CBD of commuter omnibuses and pirate taxis.
“At around 1730hrs, a Press statement was issued by the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, directing that the operation should be stopped,” he said.
“As the directive was given, the police and other security agencies were still in the middle of the operation, enforcing the ban and unaware of the cancellation.
“A team of police officers from Harare Central was confronted by an angry mob armed with stones, concrete pillars and rods. The crowd started to throw stones at the police officers whilst demanding to know why they had earlier on dispersed them alongside Harare Municipal Police.”
Comm-Gen Matanga said the crowd advanced aggressively towards the police, throwing stones, resulting in the officers firing warning shots, which could not deter the advancing mob.
“It was at this stage that the police officers fired shots that unfortunately killed two people and injured four others. In the ensuing violence, three police officers were seriously injured, a police vehicle was severely damaged and two others were burnt, several other cars were stoned and property worth thousands of dollars was extensively damaged,” he said.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the bodies of the deceased were taken to Parirenyatwa Hospital mortuary for post-mortem. He appealed to anyone who could assist with the identification of the bodies to contact their nearest police station, since the two did not have identification particulars.
Meanwhile Comm-Gen Matanga has said police will not condone any form of violence. His remarks were in reference to this week’s attack on MDC-T vice president Dr Thokozani Khupe and other officials in intra-party violence at the funeral of party leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai in Buhera.
“In a similar incident that occurred in Buhera at the burial of the late MDC-T leader, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, Dr Thokozani Khupe and other officials were assaulted, threatened with death by fellow party supporters,” he said.
“The ZRP will not tolerate any form of violence whether intra-party or inter-party and we are again investigating this matter and the perpetrators of this violence will be brought to book. As we approach the 2018 harmonised elections, let me appeal to all Zimbabweans to be peaceful as they campaign, before, during and after elections.”
Comm-Gen Matanga said people should heed President Mnangagwa’s call for peace and tolerance to opposing views and respect for the rule of law.
“We are appealing to members of the public to respect police officers while they conduct their duties,” he said. “Police have a constitutional mandate to fulfil, in equal measure, we fully respect the citizens’ rights.
“We are therefore appealing for calmness in Harare as we deal with this issue. However, let me emphasise that we will deal decisively with those who continue to engage in acts of violence.”