A long distance bus tout (hwindi) has reportedly committed suicide in police cells in Harare shortly after being arrested.
The man who is believed to be in his mid thirties was picked up by police officers from Mbudzi Police post in Harare South in the early hours of Thursday morning for loading buses at an illegal loading point and charged with touting. Reports from eye witnesses claim that the police details that arrested the man subjected the man who was resisting arrest to beatings before bungling him into solitary confinement in the police cells.
According to police details at the post who refused to be named the man was arrested like all other persons who are brought into to the police post though he was a bit violent and not cooperating with the police. He was stripped of his belt, shoe laces and all other items that could have been dangerous to him while in the police cells as per procedure.
However, because of the chilly weather he was allowed to go into the cells with a jacket he was wearing which unfortunately had a cord around it. The man is reported to have then used the cord on the jacket to hang himself by tying the cord to the air ventilators on the cells and died. According to reports the arresting officers went to check on the man about an hour after the arrest and found him hanging with the cord and dead.
When news of the man’s death in the cells made their way into the busy community outside, fellow touts, drivers and members of the public teamed up to demonstrate at the police post demanding an explanation on what could have happened to their colleague. One of the people, who was part of the gang demonstrating at the police station and also witnessed the man being arrested, told news reporters that they suspect foul play in the hands of the police.
“There is no way Sipho could have committed suicide in the police cells just because he had been arrested for touting as it is not the first time he has been picked up for that offence. I have every reason to believe that the police beat him and may have killed him because he was fighting them heavily. I really doubt the suicide allegations,” said the man.
The police details however denied the allegations of murder or any such acts in the hands of the police insisting that the man indeed hanged himself in the cells claiming negligence on the part of the officer who put him in the cells as “they should have removed the cord from the jacket.”
The local police district commissioner, identified only as Dispol Moyo to the press, is reported to have rushed to the police post to try and calm the situation as the crowd was very angry and threatening violence against the police. Police reinforcement from surrounding police posts had to be brought in including members of the riot police to come and handle the situation.
Concerted efforts to get a comment from the Officer In Charge at the police station nor the Harare South police spokesperson failed as the police claimed that they were still very busy trying to handle the situation and get details on the matter. The body of the deceased was seen being carried away in a police van but could not be immediately ascertained where it was being taken to for press to follow up with medical personnel to ascertain the cause of death. At the time of going to press members of the family had not yet been seen at the scene and the crowd was still demonstrating outside the police post.