By Garikai Chaunza
Police Officers from Harare Central Police Station in August this year rounded up 74 street children at various spots in the capital before driving them as far as Muzarabani where they dumped them one by one, an investigation has revealed.
In a number of interviews with street children, some of whom are back in the capital, it was established that the street children are constantly victims of the ruthless of police officers.
Street children said in August this year, police nabbed them up and drove them out of Harare during the night and dumped them one by one in Muzarabani, Mount Darwin and Mavhuuradonha.
Mike Tafirenyika, one of the victims picked up by a group of uniformed police officers on August 27 at around 2200hrs near Crowne Plaza Hotel narrated his ordeal at the hands of law enforcement agents.
“ We were kept in police cells for four days while waiting for the number to accumulate to at least over 50 people. They then drove us to Mavhuradonha Mountain, near Mount Darwin.
The area is lion infested. “Getting back from there was not easy as we did not have any cash with us,” one of the street kids said.
“I was picked up at midnight while sleeping in Harare gardens on charges of obstruction. We were about 40, a lorry came to collect and take us to Muzarabani where they dropped us one by one along the road, telling us that we should stay there.”
“It took me six days to return to Harare because I was begging for transport through out the road. I was lucky to be given $5 by a well wisher, which I paid to Tuya coach as bus fare. While in the busm, I was given another $3 by a well wisher after lamenting my ordeal, another victim said.
Another victim, Willard Tambo added that they were raided while gathered at a place where they collect their supper.
“The police told us they were taking us to a place where we were going to get registered for census. We were kept at Harare Central Police station for three days. We were vetted for criminal records and cleared by members of the Criminal Investigation Department who found us innocent , but we were told that they were going to release us. On the third day when we were supposed to be released, we ended up in a lorry. We were dropped at Muzarabani and told not to return to Harare,” Tambo said.
Another street child who refused to be named now working as a peer educator under the Streets Ahead, chronicled the nature of abuse homeless children are exposed to on daily basis in the hands of security forces.
“Soldiers and the members of the police in the night visit our makeshift houses harassing us. They ask us the reasons why we are on the streets and pretend to ask us about our identity documents. Young girls in the process are raped within the vicinity of our bases, while defenceless boys are often sodomised.
“As a result, a number of street children contract sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, genital herpes and syphilis,” he said.
Respect Mugodhiwho works with the Street Exit Strategies, an organisation which rehabilitates children living in the streets said his organisation took action after hearing the sad reports of the dumping of boys and girls living in the streets.
“What is happening to these young girls and boys is inhumane. It is against human rights. It goes against our mandate of reintegrating street children into main stream society,”Mugodhi added.
Upon hearing such sad and inhuman developments happening to our constituency, we engaged human rights lawyers who are looking into the cases. We understand at times these children misbehave. They sometimes commit crimes around town, but we believe that this is not the way to deal with them.
“We want the public to know this is happening. What we have done is taking up the case against the two Co-Home Affairs ministers and the Commissioner General of the police for torturing our clients. We are still quantifying the amounts for which they are to be sued.”
“We believe it is a serious human rights abuse. Everyone has rights whether he lives in the street, shack or anywhere.”
According to papers delivered to the Ministry of Home Affairs by the Human Rights NGO Forum lawyer, the organisation is suing government under Section 6 of the State Liabilities Act, Chapter 8:14 as read with Section 76 of the Police Act Chapter 11:10.
Contacted for comment, Zimbabwe Republic Police National spokesperson Commissioner Charity Charamba denied receiving the summons.
“I have not yet received those reports and papers you are saying were filed against the police and it is difficult for me to comment on things I do not know,” she said before hanging down the phone.
Co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone who said she is still to receive papers filed by the Human Rights NGO Forum describing the dumping of street children as an immoral and evil act.
“That is evil and immoral. It is gross human rights abuse which warrants the affected to approach the courts. How can one take people away and dump them? They are justified to file a lawsuit.”
As gathered through investigations that included face to face discussions with street children roaming the streets of Harare are orphans who lost their parents to HIV and Aids. Some of them have left their homes and orphanages due to frustrations and ill-treatment from guardians.
According to Street Ahead, an NGO which fights for rights of street children, there are at least 12000 street children in Zimbabwe, 5000 of these live in Harare.
While the Zimbabwean police is dumping street children to dangerous destinations, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently launched a programme targeted at reaching out to 7000 children living outside the family setting with counselling, recreation, refreshments and rehabilitation services.
The organisation came up with the initiative after realising that a number of the victims resorted to living in the streets as they run away from depressing situations at homes.