Overzealous Cops Cost Council

Chitungwiza Municipality has accepted culpability for the death of a newborn baby at council premises after its parents were detained by overzealous municipal police over a traffic offence.

The local authority is offering $10 000 compensation to the bereaved family.

Initially, the family was claiming $22 000 as damages for emotional shock, psychological trauma, pain and suffering, funeral expenses and constitutional damages.

However, the local authority pleaded with the parents and the family eventually accepted the $10 000 offer.

Ms Susan Bata had given birth to a premature baby in Seke communal lands and her husband, Mr Job Kapesa (31), was driving her to Chitungwiza Central Hospital when they were stopped by municipal police at Makoni Shopping Centre for driving against the flow of traffic.

They were asked to pay a $50 fine, which they did not have.

The parents were detained interminably, resulting in the baby’s death.

The incident occurred in December 2015.

After the burial of the baby, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) issued summons against Chitungwiza Municipality and its officials claiming $22 000.

While the claim was still pending, the parties made an out-of-court settlement and a deed of settlement was filed at the High Court for endorsement by a judge.

According to the deed of settlement, council shall pay the first instalment of $5 000 before paying $1 000 monthly instalments for the remaining $5 000.

Mr Kapesa told the court that the municipal police officers were heartless to the extent of paying a deaf ear to his desperate plea to take the baby to hospital.

“My wife and I were detained by the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants for over five hours on 31 December 2015, while trying to take our premature newborn baby to hospital for emergency medical care.

“In spite of my pleas that we had no money on us and that our baby would die without treatment, the defendants would not release us or our vehicle. They refused to help us get an ambulance or taxi without payment.

“As a result of the Defendants’ actions, we were unable to take our baby to hospital and the baby died at the offices of the 4th Defendant,” reads Mr Kapesa’s affidavit.

In September 2017, a default judgment was granted in favour of the family after the municipality and the other respondents failed to attend court.

Council and its officials then filed an application for rescission of the default judgment.

The parties later agreed to an out-of-court settlement and filed a deed of settlement at the High Court.

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