A taxi driver who was shot by a trigger-happy cop has been awarded US$7,000 in damages by the High Court after suing home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe and police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga.
Matthew Mundwa was shot in the leg one May night in 2018 by Constable Kelvin Madzima while driving to Bluffhill suburb in Harare to drop off a client.
Justifying his callous actions, Madzima argued in court that he shot Mundwa because he had failed to stop at a police checkpoint.
But Mundwa’s attorney Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) explained that his client did not stop because the officer did not identify himself and that he did not mount a formal roadblock, prompting the complainant to suspect that he was an armed robber.
Justice Webster Chinamora sided with Mundwa, ordering the police bosses and the shooter to pay up the restitution in U.S. dollars or local equivalent at the prevailing official rate, according to ZLHR spokesman Kumbirai Mafunda.
The ZLHR celebrated Mundwa’s court victory on Monday tweeting that “our efforts to deter acts of human rights violations through anti-impunity litigation against perpetrators are yielding results as Constable Kelvin Madzima and ZRP have been ordered to pay US$7,000 to Mathew Mundwa, a taxi driver, who was shot in 2018.”
The compensation, said the human rights watchdog, was for covering loss of earnings as a result of being idle in hospital, loss of earning capacity due to an injury, physical bodily harm and pain which he experienced from the gunshot, emotional shock from the traumatic experience of the incident, future pain, suffering and inconvenience, loss of amenities of life, permanent disability, rehabilitation costs and psychiatric expenses for trauma sustained.
Victims of police brutality are increasingly fighting back in the courts with the help of human rights defenders such as the ZLHR, filing claims for damages against mainly Kazembe and police chiefs, who face a slew of lawsuits.
In May the two avoided jail time for contempt of court after rushing in the nick of time to pay US$16,788 compensation to another victim of a senseless police shooting.
Loveness Chiriseri, a Chitungwiza resident, had sued Kazembe and Matanga together with finance minister Mthuli Ncube after she was shot twice by a police officer at a checkpoint in Harare in August 2018.
Human rights defenders say violations of civil liberties by police are on the increase, with the latest major breach being the alleged burning of two commuter omnibuses by traffic officers who reportedly fired tear gas canisters inside the kombis after a high-speed chase last week, accusing the drivers of operating illegally.
The police have denied the allegations, blaming the incident on “rowdy elements.” A police Ford Fiesta was also rammed into and had its windows smashed in the ensuing melee.
And in Harare, incidents of police officers recklessly throwing spikes at pirate kombis loaded with innocent passengers or shattering car windscreens are also widespread – sometimes with deadly consequences. – ZimLive