Zimbabwe police sued over Bulawayo man's lockdown death

Residents watch as municipal police demolish illegal structures during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Harare, Zimbabwe, on April 24 2020.
Residents watch as municipal police demolish illegal structures during a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19 in Harare, Zimbabwe, on April 24 2020.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Bulawayo resident Levison Ncube, 25, died from “subarachnoid haemorrhage and head trauma” a few days after police allegedly beat him for allegedly violating Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 lockdown rules in April.

The cause of his death is contained in a post-mortem report conducted by a government pathologist at the local United Bulawayo Hospitals (UBH), seen by TimesLIVE.

Levison and his pregnant girlfriend were on their way to the shops to buy basic commodities in Mabuthweni, a low income suburb in Bulawayo, when police reprimanded them.

Armed with the post-mortem, the deceased’s family has filed a notice of intent to sue Godwin Matanga, the commissioner-general of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

Mehluli Dube, a lawyer with Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZHLR) representing the Ncube family, said his clients were claiming compensation for medical expenses, funeral expenses, general damages for loss of support and any other ancillary damages suffered as a result of the death.

“Our clients hold the position that the deceased died as a result of the injuries he sustained after being assaulted by a police officer who at the material time was acting within the scope and course of his employment as a police officer employed by the ministry of home affairs which makes the state vicariously liable for his conduct,” he said.

This is the third case of the government being sued for violations committed during the national lockdown period. Two are from Bulawayo and one from Gweru, and they are demanding a total of ZW$750,000 (about R312,500).

Meanwhile, the government says the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are working round the clock investigating the alleged disappearance and torture of Netsai Marova, Cecilia Chimbiri and Harare West MP Joana Mamombe last week.

Police warned that after investigations the trio would face the wrath of the law because they took part in an illegal demonstration in violation of the country’s Covid-19 lockdown rules.

“The trio’s demonstration was illegal because for one to stage a demonstration, one should have a police clearance.

“So, in that respect, it was illegal and they also violated the lockdown regulations. So, it was illegal and there was no social distancing.

“So, it will be dealt with at an appropriate time. For now, we are dealing with the alleged abduction,” home affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe told journalists.

The Elders - the Nelson Mandela-founded organisation of elder statesmen, peace activists, and human rights advocates - said in a statement that it was alarmed by reports of more abductions, torture and sexual abuse of female activists in Zimbabwe.

“All stakeholders must act in good faith to protect lives, freedoms and the rule of law,” the organisation said.

In September last year, former president of Ireland Mary Robinson, who chairs The Elders, and her deputy, former first lady of SA Graça Machel, visited Zimbabwe to meet President Emmerson Mnangagwa, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, civic society and women’s groups to push for a “truly inclusive national dialogue”.

- Additional reporting by John Ncube.

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