Zimbabwe lawyers march against police brutality

Picture: AFP
Picture: AFP

Dozens of Zimbabwean lawyers took to the streets on Friday to protest against police brutality that has escalated since President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power in 2017.

Wearing black court robes and bandages smeared with tomato ketchup, the lawyers carried boards that read "stop state sanctioned violence" and "no to police brutality".

The group marched from the High Court in the capital Harare to the Ministry of Home Affairs, where they deposited a petition.

They then proceeded to police headquarters to hand over a second petition.

"We are here to march against police brutality, not only as concerned citizens but as concerned officers of the court and custodians of the law," 25-year old Sandra Dhizwani told AFP.

Zimbabwean security forces have violently quashed protests in the past.

Riot police brutalised supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) earlier this month, drawing widespread condemnation from within and outside Zimbabwe.

"We are concerned that there has been an escalation in terms of violence," said lawyer Roselyn Hanzi at the protest.

"We have seen protests being banned even after the conveners tried to follow the procedures of the law."

The lawyers called for investigations into all cases of police violence and asked for a complaints mechanism be established.

Mnangagwa took over after the toppling of former-president Robert Mugabe in 2017.

He was elected last year on a promise to boost the economy and end human rights abuses that took place under Mugabe's increasingly despotic rule.

But six people were killed in August last year when military officials opened fire on demonstrators protesting against a delay in elections results.

Another 17 people were killed in January when security forces cracked down on people who took to the streets after a hike in fuel prices.

Human Rights Watch decried the violence and called for the state to prosecute those responsible.

At least 50 kidnapping and torture cases have been reported since. Hundreds of political opponents, trade unions and civil society members have been arrested.

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