January riots: Family forced to pay for own autopsy

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By Anna Chibamu

THE High Court, last week granted a Harare family an order allowing it to engage an independent pathologist in a bid to find closure following the mysterious death of a relative.

Witness Mashereni, reportedly died last month under unclear circumstances just after being released from Harare Remand Prison. The deceased had been arrested on charges of having part of the riots that rocked the country in January.

In a statement released on Monday, a human rights body; the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said that Mashereni’s family lawyers successfully petitioned the High Court and was granted permission to conduct the autopsy to ascertain the cause of his death.

“Witness died some few hours after being released from Harare Remand Prison, where he was detained after he was arrested on14 February this year for alleged criminal trespass.

“For close to three weeks after his death, no post-mortem examination had been conducted to determine the cause of his death with Zimbabwean hospital authorities stating that they have no pathologists available to carry out the autopsy,” ZLHR said.

According to ZLHR, Witness’s father Christopher Mashereni engaged its services through the family lawyer Fiona Iliff. An urgent chamber application was filled with the High Court last Tuesday, seeking an order allowing authorisation of an independent pathologist to carry out the post-mortem examination on the late Mashereni whose age was not given.

“While Witness’s family engaged an independent pathologist to carry out the post-mortem, authorities at Chitungwiza Central Hospital failed to provide authorisation for the pathologist to carry out the post-mortem at the state-run hospital or alternatively at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals.

“In her court application, Iliff argued that the post-mortem examination needs to be carried out urgently because Witness’s body was decomposing such that the cause of death would be difficult to determine and his family which was mourning the loss of their relative was eager to bury him,” added ZLHR.

Government says it has only two qualified pathologists who are supposed to perform postmortem procedures in government health institutions countrywide.

Another family of a 22-year-old football player Kelvin Choto from Chitungwiza, had to engage the services of ZLHR to obtain the postmortem results of their son who was shot and killed during the January riots.

It is not yet clear whether Choto’s family finally got the results but, they were forced to bury their son without them, his father Julius Choto told reporters in January.