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  • Legal Monitor Issue 101
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)

    July 11, 2011

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    Man demands millions for police injustice

    A man who was shot by the police and forced to suffer 14 months in a dilapidated prison before being acquitted has approached the High Court to compel Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and the government to pay him over $1.5 million in damages.

    Cosmas Nyambara was shot in the thigh in July 2009 while lying on the ground when police suspected him of being part of a gang that had recently robbed a vehicle in Harare's Mt Pleasant suburb. Nyambara said he was at his rural home when the alleged robbery occurred.

    Whilst in hospital recovering from the gunshot wounds, Nyambara was charged with armed robbery as defined in Section 126 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on 16 July 2009. He was subsequently remanded in custody at Chikurubi Maximum Prison.

    Through his lawyer, Belinda Chinowawa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Nyambara is asking Chihuri, co-Home Affairs ministers Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone, Detective Constable Muuya and Detective Sergeant Musekiwa to pay him $1 521 400 in compensation. Chinowawa says Nyambara can barely live a normal life after the ordeal.

    Nyambara says his claim is for: "Payment in the sum of $1 500 000 being damages for pain, suffering, shock, contumelia, unlawful arrest and imprisonment, loss of amenities of life and permanent disability and disfigurement sustained as a result of an unlawful shooting by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police."

    He wants a further $5 400 for loss of income during the time he was in remand prison and $16 000 as compensation for loss of revenue from his farming activities.

    Nyambara is demanding that the police return a Trium Galaxy cell phone, Econet sim card and $168 taken by the police upon his arrest.

    The defendants have 10 working days from 1 July to respond to the claim.

    What started as a normal day on 13 July in 2009 turned into a nightmare for Nyambara when two plainclothes policemen Muuya and Musekiwa "brandished guns and ordered him to stop".

    Fearing for his life, Nyambara complied and was ordered to lie on the ground before he was shot in the left thigh.

    "This was totally uncalled for as the Plaintiff (Nyambara) had not shown any inclination to resist the order to lie down or to flee. The attack was not only brutal but also callous and unnecessary," said Nyambara's lawyer, Chinowawa.

    The policemen had suspected Nyambara of being part of a gang of armed robbers led by Gift "Tyres" Mwale, who was on the police "most wanted" list. Mwale had died in a hail of bullets after hijacking a Mercedes-Benz in Harare days before Nyambara's ordeal.

    Muuya and Musekiwa asked Nyambara to reveal the whereabouts of "his accomplices as well as the hiding place for some AK47s" to which he denied knowledge of.

    According to court papers, the police officers bundled Nyambara into a grey Toyota Collora vehicle that had been parked on the opposite side of the road.

    "The Plaintiff continued to protest his innocence and declared that he could not have committed the alleged robberies as he had just returned from his rural home on that very day and furnished proof in the form of a bus ticket to authenticate his claim," read the court papers.

    "After the production of the ticket as corroboration the police officers discontinued the questioning and proceeded to take him to Glen Norah police station and subsequently to Harare Central Hospital where he was placed under police guard and received treatment for his gunshot wound," according to the court papers.

    After going through this torment, the charges were withdrawn before plea due to lack of evidence despite the fact that the police officers had claimed to have positively identified Nyambara as one of the robbers.

    To save face, the State then charged Nyambara with possession of a firearm, "notwithstanding the fact that no firearm had been retrieved from him at the time of his arrest".

    That charge was dropped on 9 September 2010 resulting in Nyambara's release.

    But life has never been the same, he says. Not only did he sustain bodily injury from the gunshot despite having committed no crime, Nyambara lost his sales job with Tyn-Serve Distributors where he earned a monthly income of $450.

    "His mobility and independence have reduced, as he is unable to participate in basic and ordinary activities that a farmer should be able to as his left leg cannot sustain this," wrote his lawyer.

    Nyambara's case is one in many that show how police recklessness has cost innocent citizens. Several claims similar to Nyambara's are before the courts. Chihuri's failure to pay claims he has lost in the courts also highlights how the police continue acting with impunity.

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