By Tichaona Sibanda
13 January 2012
Two of the seven men arrested on Thursday, following skirmishes between police and vendors in central Harare the day before, were allegedly tortured to confess their roles in attacking a police officer.
Barnabas Mwanaka and Kudakwashe Usavi were among the first group of three to be picked up by the police in a morning raid at Harvest House on Thursday. The MDC-T said Mwanaka is their Youth Assembly secretary for Mbare district.
The second police raid was conducted just after midday and nabbed four other people, also linked to the MDC. They are being held at Harare Central police station where lawyers have been denied access to them. The four are Jephias Moyo, Leonard Dendera, Samson Nerwande and Partson Murimoga.
A highly placed source in the MDC-T told us they’ve received credible accounts of torture and beatings by police who accused the men of being part of the group of vendors who waged running battles with the police on Wednesday.
The police also accused Mwanaka and Usavi of beating up a police officer during the disturbances. The two allegedly suffered serious injuries during torture. They were taken under heavy police guard to Harare hospital for treatment.
Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us police had still not leveled any charges against the men, who deny being involved in the running battles.
‘Lawyers are finding it difficult to get to the group but there are some sympathetic officers in the police force who have relayed some vital information to the MDC,’ Muchemwa said.
Muchemwa says there is public anger at the display of excessive force by police when arresting the men, which he said was reminiscent of the Ian Smith regime’s methods before Independence.
A Daily News crew covering the running battles was also briefly detained by the police, who wanted to know from reporter Xolisani Ncube how he was going to write the story. Photojournalist Annie Mpalume was ordered to delete photos from her cameras.
‘Some people in the streets are saying there isn’t much difference between the police under Smith’s regime and Mugabe’s rule. They think the police under Mugabe have perfected the art of brutality to deal with dissent and protests.
‘During Smith’s rule this type of behaviour by the police forced many Zimbabweans to leave the country and join the liberation and fight the injustice,’ Muchemwa added.