Baby dies after suffocating from teargas fired by riot police during stayaway

A one-year-old baby died in Bulawayo after allegedly suffocating from teargas fired by riot police during last Wednesday’s nationwide stayaway.

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Kupakwashe Mutasa was reportedly sleeping when police descended at Burombo Flats in Makokoba after 4pm, firing teargas at random within the corridors.

Her father, David Mutasa yesterday said Kupakwashe died on their way to Mpilo Hospital to seek treatment.

Police fired teargas inside the flats in Makokoba to force residents out, where they were made to sing the national anthem and then severely beaten with baton sticks accused of staging an anti-government protest.

“I tried to tell them that my child had been affected by the teargas and needed urgent medical attention but they did not listen,” Mutasa said.

“I too was suffocating from the smoke. My baby was suffocating but they did not care and made us [together with other residents] stand outside while some of them went inside the flats firing teargas.

“I only managed to try to seek medical attention after they left but it was too late as my child died on our way to the hospital.”

Police were “hunting” for youths who staged running battles with them in the afternoon. Mutasa (42) said police had not offered any help, or apologised to the family following the death of his daughter.

Molly Sibanda (69) and Marko Mhlanga (59), both residents at Burombo flats, condemned the police action, saying they were affected by the teargas.

“The whole community is mourning following the death of Mutasa’s baby who died because of their teargas. I now have chest pains and a constant cough,” Mhlanga said.

“The teargas canister was at my door and it is a miracle I survived. It was terrible. The situation could easily be mistaken for a war-zone.

Sibanda added: “It’s sad to know we have lost a baby. I stay with my grandchildren and one of them who is pregnant nearly suffocated to death. I don’t know what we did to deserve this barbaric kind of treatment from the police we thought are there to protect us.”

Police severely beat up Burombo residents, made them sing the national anthem, and arrested a number of them on allegations of looting shops during the “shut down Zim” stayaway.

Police spokesperson senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba yesterday professed ignorance over Kupakwashe’s death.

“I don’t know. Did they report the matter to the police? I am not in Bulawayo and wouldn’t know,” she said.

On Wednesday, Charamba said police had a wanted list of residents accused of inciting violence in Bulawayo.