WAR Veterans’ minister Tshinga Dube yesterday took a different route against his fellow Cabinet ministers by condemning police’s use of brute force in crushing the recent anti-government demonstrations, describing the police officers involved as “overzealous”.
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Addressing the public at Stanley Square in Makokoba, Bulawayo, after donating some textbooks yesterday, Dube said the battering and and teargasing of demonstrators, among them children, during the recent nationwide job stay-away, was uncalled for.
“It’s very sad and unfortunate that some police officers become overzealous. I don’t understand when some police officers start ill-treating kids to the extent of taking them to a police station or locking them up,” he said.
“It’s very, very unfortunate. So what we can only do is to speak to their higher authorities. They (authorities) must look upon these issues very seriously. Kids are kids and you will find that anywhere in the world they are taken by storm, and if that happens, they want to be seen participating.”
Dube added: “And if you ask why they are participating, they will not give you a satisfactory answer, but be that the case, the police officers must have enough sense to see that these are young people who need help, not baton sticks to be used on them or teargas. It’s just unfortunate.”
Several people in most urban centres were reportedly injured when police ruthlessly crushed the protests, although Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has defended the police action.
Dube’s remarks came as public anger against police was swelling with human rights activists, churches and opposition parties calling for the perpetrators to be brought to book.
Police have also been accused of firing teargas into Burombo Flats in Bulawayo, leaving at least 43 children hospitalised after inhaling the fumes.
A legislative watchdog, Veritas, recently urged Zimbabweans to report human rights violations by the police or army personnel to the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.
Videos of police brutality have been circulating on social media networks, and despite police saying they will institute investigations, they cast doubt on their sincerity when they also argued that the videos were doctored.
The Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights has warned that police officers photographed beating protesters will be held personally accountable in the future.