ACCLAIMED photojournalist Tsvangirai Mukwazhi last week fled the country for South Africa after the police allegedly assaulted him on allegations of owning an improperly registered vehicle.
The award-winning journalist covers Zimbabwe for the Associated Press (AP) and a number of online news organisations.
Mukwazhi told the Zimbabwe Independent from South Africa this week that his assault was a traumatising ordeal for him and his family and was the reason why he sought temporary refuge in South Africa.
“Armed plainclothes policemen came to my house on July 24 around 5.30am and broke down the main door to my house, entered my bedroom and started beating me up,” Mukwazhi said.
“They also beat up my maid for no apparent reason.”
He said despite telling the policemen that his vehicle was properly registered, the officers manacled him and took him to Southerton Police Station. His car was seized.
“I told them that my car was properly registered and even produced documents to prove it, but they handcuffed me and took me to Southerton Police Station,” Mukwazhi said.
He said he was later released without charge, but the car was not returned to him.
“I later saw my car being driven in town. I called my lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa and together we went to the police station and asked about the whereabouts of the car,” Mukwazhi said. “The police insisted it was parked at the station, but when we demanded to see it, it turned out that it was not at the station as they claimed.”
APâ€™s bureau chief in Zimbabwe Angus Shaw told the Independent that Mukwazhiâ€™s assault appeared to be part of an onslaught against the independent media by the state.
“Mukwazhi is a committed photojournalist who has been recording events that are part of the daily life confronted by Zimbabweans and thatâ€™s why I cannot understand why he was singled out,” said Shaw.
“His persecution does not make sense and the only reason we can see for his cruel treatment is the ongoing campaign against independent and fair-minded journalists.”
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena yesterday said he was not aware of the incident.
By Lucia Makamure