ZIMBABWE Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) is saddened by the unbecoming and reprehensible conduct of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), which led to the death of two people on Thursday 22 February 2018 as confirmed by ZRP, during a government backed operation to outlaw commuter omnibus operators and informal traders from operating in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD).
The incident was published in the country’s main national newspapers on Friday 23 February 2018, wherein they reported that ZRP members allegedly fatally shot some bystanders after engaging in some running battles with commuter omnibus operators, informal traders and members of the public in the CBD. Some people were reported to have been hospitalised after sustaining injuries during the clash with the police.
In a statement issued on Friday 23 February 2018, ZRP Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga confirmed that two people had died in what he described as a “very unfortunate and regrettable incident”.
The commuter omnibus and informal traders were reportedly resisting the enforcement of a joint Harare City Council and government backed directive outlawing the ferrying of passengers and trading by vendors in the CBD. This illegitimate conduct of the ZRP members is a serious threat to national security since the ZRP is one of the two arms of the security services tasked with safeguarding the safety and security of citizens and has a chilling effect on the lawful activities of the Police Force.
According to Section 219 of the Constitution, the ZRP has a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order, as well as protecting and securing the lives and property of people among other duties and to uphold the Constitution.
In addition, the ZRP must be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional and subordinate to civilian authority. ZLHR considers the ZRP members’ conduct and actions to be in violation of Section 208 of the Constitution, which calls on members of the security services to exercise their functions in a way that does not violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person.
Section 10 of the Constitution binds the State and every person (including all members of the ZRP) to promote national unity, peace and stability while Section 52 of the Constitution assures every citizen of the right to personal security which includes the right to freedom from all forms of violence from public or private sources.
The national newspapers also reported that members of the public besieged Harare Central Police Station and reportedly threw stones and set alight some vehicles as ZRP members reacted by firing teargas canisters to disperse members of the public, who were protesting against the death of people in Harare.
While members of the public may have felt aggrieved by the ZRP’s actions, their conduct of mob justice does not justify their response doesn’t entitle them to take the law into their hands.