Police bosses dressed down over dirty cells, suspect abuse

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By Anna Chibamu

A GROUP of MPs from Zimbabwe’s parliament on Monday took time to dress down police bosses at Harare Central police for allegedly beating up and keeping suspects inside dirty cells.

This is after the Senate Thematic Committee on Human Rights had visited the country’s busiest police station on a fact finding mission on conditions within the police facility.

The legislators came face to face with the rot when they found inmates who are yet to appear in court being held beyond the stipulated 48 hour period police are allowed to keep suspects.

The MPs were also told by the suspects that they were being denied food by police.

Some of the suspects had open wounds with bandages from alleged beatings by arresting officers.

Most of those arrested were street vendors nabbed during their activities within the Harare CBD while others were arrested for miscellaneous offences such as public drinking.

Committee chair, Oliver Chidhawu who is also senator for Harare Metropolitan Province, reminded police bosses that suspects needed to be treated humanely.

“Your cells are very dirty. Why can we not make them clean when we can clean all stairs and offices.

“These are just inmates not yet convicted. Even for those convicted, they are still human. If they want to pay a fine, why keep them? Why do we cause pain to each other? These are the human rights we are talking about.

“Please we want you to change your attitude. We do not want people to be abused,” said Chidhawu.

Chief Makumbe of Manicaland also weighed in: “Holding cells are empty and inmates are squashed in a corner. The cells are filthy dirty. This is de-humanising other people. The cells are not worth holding any human being.

“I am appalled by this situation. Some women have told us that they are willing to pay fines but you are denying them that opportunity. Let us appreciate the economy is biting and understand the plight of the kids that are left home by these inmates.”

On his part, Officer Commanding Harare Province Commissioner Charles Nhete attributed challenges to the budget constraints.

“We receive rations and we also submit our budget to the Police General Headquarters for approval and this year, we have not yet done so as we were supposed to have done it in August-September,” he said.

Nhete said of dirty police cells, “We do not have detergents and cobra to clean up cells…we mop the floors without any chemicals.”

The high ranking police boss denied unnecessarily keeping suspects willing to pay fines, adding, the police facilitates dockets for court appearance for those without fines.