BY TATENDA SQUARE
THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Thursday petitioned the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to stop throwing teargas canisters into public transport and called for a written undertaking from Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga that the misdeeds would not be repeated.
This followed an incident this week where police officers threw teargas canisters into a South Africa-bound Mulaudzi bus, forcing dozens of passengers, including children, to escape through windows.
ZLHR urged Matanga to furnish the human rights organisation with a written undertaking in which law enforcement agents shall be directed to desist from the practice of throwing teargas canisters into loaded public transportation vehicles.
In the letter written by Tinashe Chinopfukutwa and Paidamoyo Saurombe, the human rights lawyers said: “The indiscriminate throwing of teargas canisters into loaded public transport vehicles amounts to excessive and unjustifiable use of force by ZRP members and amounts to a violation of the passengers right to human dignity and the right to personal security as provided for in section 51 and section 52 of the Constitution.”
The ZLHR said its concern and request followed the recent circulation on social media of a video, where ZRP members allegedly threw teargas canisters into a Mulaudzi bus, which was carrying passengers.
The widely circulating video showed the teargassed passengers frantically jumping out of the bus through windows in a bid to escape the suffocating fumes, while children could be seen gasping for breath as they were being rescued from the bus.
Unconfirmed reports said a child was injured in the furore and had to be urgently taken to hospital.
In December last year, an elderly woman and children were forced to jump out of a bus at the Harare Showgrounds bus stop after a police officer discharged a tear smoke canister.
“In the video, passengers could be seen stampeding and scurrying to escape the teargas fumes which had engulfed the bus and it was clear from the video that some of the victims are young children, who were clearly choking from the teargas fumes,” the lawyers said.
The lawyers said they were in the process of preparing a court application for the ZRP members’ conduct in question to be declared a violation of passengers’ fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution and for an order prohibiting such conduct.