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Police Fire Tear Gas On Mourners

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

POLICE in Chinhoyi have courted the ire of local residents after indiscriminately deploying tear-smoke in the populous Chikonohono township, forcing a group of mourners to desert a funeral in a hurry.
The incident occurred Sunday night as a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) patrol team aboard an unidentified white Honda Fit vehicle threw teargas canisters in a bid to disperse residents allegedly breaching the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown and curfew regulations.
The curfew rules prohibit the movement of people after 6pm until 6am and limit funeral gatherings to just 30 people.
A sizeable crowd of mourners at a vigil near a block of tuck shops at Pfungwa Dzakanaka shopping centre, was  targeted by the mobile patrol officers who never bothered to enquire why people were gathering at the house.
The cops also neither gave prior warning for the crowd to disperse before unleashing the irritant.
A resident, Tanaka Mururi reported his family had been affected by the ‘reckless’ police conduct.
“Guys, I have noted with concern police are randomly spraying teargas at Pfungwa Dzakanaka shopping centre. My concern is the gas is affecting innocent people who are indoors,” said Mururi.
“It’s true, my cousin sister just called me asking what help she could render children who were blinded and were choking as a result of the teargas. These kids were in the house watching TV,” Mururi added.
Mashonaland West provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Margaret Chitove professed ignorance over the incident, before promising to investigate the matter and issue a statement.
Thereafter, Chitove repeatedly snubbed this journalist, insisting she was still digging for information.
Chinhoyi mayor, Councillor Garikai Dendera, who witnessed the incident, deplored the police action, describing it as unprofessional.
“While we appeal to the public to adhere to the Covid-19 curfew as enunciated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, police should be diligent enough to use other humane means of ensuring compliance.
“On this particular case, the cops were moving in a white Honda Fit throwing teargas, including at a funeral thereby threatening the safety of residents they purport to protect. It was not proper,” the mayor fumed.
Added Dendera, “At least, they should have been professional enough to find out why people were gathered at the house, rather than act recklessly and endanger people’s lives, particularly children who suffered irritation on eyes and running noses due to the gas.”
The Sunday incident got Chinhoyi social media groups abuzz with most users accusing ZRP of heavy-handedness.