BY BYRON MUTINGWENDE
An Epworth woman is convinced that her daughter died of food poisoning at a private school in the capital city but contrary results of a post mortem by a medical practitioner at Harare Central Hospital did not satisfy her, setting the tone for a bruising legal battle with the authorities.
Joyce Batton (53) said that on July 10, 2013, her daughter Christine Batton went to Matthew Rusike Children’s Home school where she was in Form 3 as usual.Later in the school, as was custom at the school, Reverends Ndhlambi and Gondongwe the chaplains at the school invited students for a prayer meeting.
“Christine told me that the students were first told to sing and dance and recite some hymns that hypnotized them. It is in that state that they were told to smell some unique fish as part of a healing exercise. At first she refused but she said that out of fear she swallowed a piece of the fish and started having fits immediately. When she came home she would suddenly be seized by the fits and begin to act wildly. This continued for about five days and she eventually lost her senses before she collapsed and died on the fifth day,” Batton said.
Batton said that she notified the school authorities of Christine’s sudden death following consumption of the fish.
“The school head Gladys Gochai and her deputy Rhoda Kudakwashe Tuso scolded me and told the security details at the school to force me out of the school premises. They refused to help me with funeral expenses and their behaviour was heartless and cruel,” Batton said.
On July 19th, 2013, Joyce Batton reported a case of sudden death at ZRP Epworth saying her daughter had died of food poisoning.
Investigations were done and a docket was opened under SDD6/13. The body of the deceased was taken to Harare Central Hospital for post mortem. At Harare Hospital they were told that one Dr. Aguero would carry out a post mortem on Christine.
Batton said they buried Christine without the post mortem report. She said she would pester the police officers to prosecute the Matthew Rusike school authorities over her daughter’s mysterious death.
“At one point Constables Enock Musvipa and Irene Mbewe who were based at Epworth police post hit me with stones and baton sticks when I had openly told them that my own investigations had unearthed that they had been bribed by school authorities to hide the matter under the carpet. I then reported them to Police General Headquarters for abuse of public office,” Batton said.
Batton approached Transparency International Zimbabwe’s team leader of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) unit, Danai Mabuto who led her to the police internal investigations section to seek justice over what she considers was criminal abuse of public office, ineffectiveness and inefficiency by the police as well as inadequate and unfair treatment of her case.
“We were shocked to see the results of the post mortem signed by someone different from Dr. Aguero and we immediately suspected foul play after our unfair treatment at the hands of the police. We feel the results of the post mortem were tampered with,” Batton said.
On February, 23rd, 2015, Assistant Commissioner W. Tadyanemhandu, the ZRP Chief Staff Officer in charge of internal investigations wrote to ZHRC that the post mortem was carried out by Dr. Washington Mudini and it revealed that Christine’s death was due to aspiration, pneumonitis and meningitis.
“Further to that, samples were taken to toxicology examination and we are still waiting for examination results. On 6 February, 2014, the docket was sent to court for inquest. The results of inquest concluded that death was due to aspiration, pneumonitis and meningitis.
“The police acted above board in taking necessary steps to establish the cause of death. On 5 February, 2015, your client was given an outcome of her complaint…It appears Joyce Batton is not satisfied with the cause of death determined by the doctor,” Tadyanemhandu said.
Mabuto has vowed to fight on until justice is delivered to the Batton family and other people in similar circumstances.
“While the post mortem results may actually be true, the police must never at any time take the law into their hands to abuse those seeking their protection. They should be found to explicitly explain the course of justice and the law to members of the public so as to dispel perceived corruption within their rank and file,” Mabuto said.
She has appealed to the Police Commissioner General to thoroughly investigate circumstances surrounding the Batton case.