A Zimbabwean court has criticised some Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers and ruled that foul play could have been committed which led to the death of Sharai Mukaro, a Chivhu woman.
Mukaro, a mother of two, died in September 2021 from injuries sustained as a result of the severe assault and torture inflicted upon her by Detective Steven Dondo and some police officers in a “Darkroom” at Chivhu Police Station, where she was detained after being accused of stealing US$1 000.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights report that on 30 March 2022, Chivhu Magistrate Henry Sande began presiding over an inquiry to establish the cause of death of Mukaro.
Detective Dondo testified and claimed that Mukaro’s husband Pastor Abinel Mukaro had told him that she had some heart problems.
However, three witnesses namely Pastor Mukaro, the deceased’s husband, her daughter Ivy Mukaro and Pastor Mukaro’s workmate Pastor Nelson Chirambadare, told the court that Sharai was assaulted under her feet by ZRP officers while in police custody.
According to a medical report, the cause of the death of Sharai was a result of blood clots and indicated that several blows were inflicted upon her.
The inquest was only instituted after Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights issued a notice of intention to sue Detective Dondo, ZRP Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Hon. Kazembe Kazembe.
In the notice of intention to sue, Chinopfukutwa stated that Dondo fatally assaulted Mukaro after having threatened to kill her.
Chinopfukutwa protested that the conduct of police officers who tortured Mukaro to death is a breach of the constitutional obligation of the Police Service to protect and secure the lives of Zimbabwean citizens as provided for under Section 219(1)(c) of the Constitution.
The human rights lawyer also formally requested that the criminal investigations on the death of the deceased which were being handled by police officers from Chivhu Police Station be conducted by law enforcement agents from another police station.
He said he does not reasonably expect police officers at Chivhu Police Station to investigate themselves and accord justice to his clients, who are Pastor Mukaro and Ivy.
On Friday 8 July 2022, Magistrate Sande found that there is a possibility of foul play having been committed by some ZRP officers which led to the death of Mukaro.
Magistrate Sande ruled that there is a likelihood that the late Mukaro was assaulted by some police officers based at the Criminal Investigations Department at ZRP Chivhu Police Station.
The Magistrate noted that investigations to ascertain the death of Mukaro were done unprocedurally as they had been conducted by the same ZRP officers stationed at Chivhu Police Station who are being implicated in causing the death of the late Chivhu woman and hence the probe must be done by police officers outside Mashonaland East province.
Magistrate Sande, who noted that according to the testimony of the medical doctor, assault under the soles of feet was done to conceal evidence of assault, said there is need to investigate if the offence of culpable homicide was not committed.