ZIMBABWE Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga is feeling the heat over payment of damages awarded to people who fall victim to police brutality.
Matanga recently disclosed this in his response to an application seeking his imprisonment for contempt of court filed by Loveness Chiriseri, a Chitungwiza resident after the ZRP Commissioner-General failed to pay compensation to her as ordered by High Court Judge Justice Edith Mushore in July 2020.
Matanga argued that there is no just cause for Chiriseri to take him to court seeking his imprisonment for contempt of court for defying a court order as he had taken legal steps necessary to trigger her payment in compliance with Justice Mushore’s order.
Matanga attached some “telling” letters accompanying his notice of opposition to Chiriseri’s application where he disclosed that he had instructed his lawyers to request treasury authority from the Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, which is ZRP’s parent ministry to pay Chiriseri.
The Commissioner-General said he was not wilfully disobeying or neglecting to comply with the court order as he had sought for authority to pay and the authority had not been granted and is still waiting for it to be approved. He said the delay to pay Chiriseri was due to official procedures within government and once he gets the Treasury Concurrence from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, she will be paid.
Chiriseri was awarded US$16 788 in damages after she was assisted by Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to sue when she shot by police officers in August 2018.
She was injured when a police officer manning a police checkpoint at the intersection of Seke road and Delport road shot twice at a private vehicle she was travelling in as a passenger.
Chiriseri sued Matanga, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Chief Inspector Modwick Musonza, the Officer in Charge of St Mary’s Police Station in Chitungwiza and Finance Economic Development Minister Mthuli Ncube for damages for injuries sustained as a result of the shooting, medical expenses, pain and suffering, nervous shock and loss of amenities to life.
In court, Iliff argued that the police officer who shot Chiriseri applied excessive force and that the officer’s constitutional right was exercised in an overzealous and questionable manner.
In her extensive ruling, Justice Mushore noted that Chiriseri posed no danger to the public or to the internal security of the country or to law and order and that she was an unarmed non-threatening passenger in a vehicle.
The police officer, Justice Mushore said, had no basis to fire a weapon at a civilian target and if it was his intention to stop the driver of the vehicle in which Chiriseri was travelling in from proceeding through a checkpoint, he ought to have fired a warning shot into the air.
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