Freeman Razemba and Tertia Makurumidze
ONE of the 210 anti-riot police helmets recovered from the basement of Robinson House in Harare last week belonged to a police sergeant who was killed in political violence that erupted near Harvest House in Harare three years ago, a top police officer has said.
Police last Saturday raided Robinson House and recovered 210 police helmets and 46 others belonging to Harare City Council.
This followed an attack on a uniformed policeman by thugs closer to the building.
When police officers sought to arrest the suspects, they ran into the basement of Robinson House with police in hot pursuit.
While inside, police recovered the helmets and a fleet of unregistered vehicles suspected to be exhibits in some cases of violence around town, among other items.
Addressing journalists in Harare yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said investigations had shown that one of the helmets was the one used by the now late Sergeant Talkmore Phiri when he was slain.
“Police have established that one of the recovered helmets belonged to a police officer who was murdered in Harare in 2016 during the process of politically-motivated violence,” he said.
In an interview after the Press conference, Asst Comm Nyathi said the late Sgt Phiri’s helmet was positively identified by the police and it also bore his name.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the late Sgt Phiri was assaulted by the mob together with a female colleague, who survived with serious injuries.
“The helmet was the one used by the late Sgt Phiri who was stoned to death in town. During the attack, a female officer was also seriously injured and spent time in hospital,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga had since instituted internal investigations to establish how the helmets were sold to civilians through auction.
“Meanwhile, the Commissioner-General of Police has instituted full investigations into the alleged disposal of police riot helmets to members of the public,” he said.
This followed claims by a Harare businessman Mr Mitchel Chibwe that he had bought part of the helmets from ABC Auctions after they had been disposed of by police’s Ordinance Section.
In 2016, Sgt Phiri was attacked and killed by thugs that operate at Harvest House (now Morgan Tsvangirai House) in Harare’s central business district, during the illegal and violent demonstration.
Sgt Phiri was among police officers who had been deployed to the Deeds Office near Morgan Tsvangirai House, where the rogue vendors had allegedly damaged property.
Sgt Phiri and his workmate, Constable Concillia Gumbo, were stoned and fell from a police vehicle.
The gang caught up with him and further stoned him, before kicking and punching him.
Asst Comm Nyathi said last Saturday police also observed rocks that were positioned on several spots in the basement of Robinson House, indicating that they were deliberately stored there.
He said Robinson House was now believed to be a hideout for violence perpetrators.
“The police have established that Robison House basement is a hideout for criminals who also have political inclinations.
“Members of the public are advised that the police are treating this case as a serious and grave incident whose full ramifications are yet to be fully established,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said contrary to various reports on social media by individuals and groups about the helmets, they have not been fully accounted for nor has there been any concrete proof on why they were stored at the building.
“An individual, who approached the police after the recovery of the helmets, has only laid official claim to a fraction of the helmets leaving the vast majority of these helmets unaccounted for.
“This individual claims to have stored these helmets in 2016 leaving the vast majority of these helmets unaccounted for,” he said.
Police are yet to verify the claims that Mr Chibwe bought the helmets from ABC Auctions.
“Police are still to verify the ownership of those helmets that the individual referred to above has laid claim to,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said they had noted with concern that certain political commentators and politicians have made inaccurate and reckless statements pertaining to the helmets in question.
He however warned people against making such reckless statements.
“In view of the gravity of the situation outlined above, the police wishes to warn members of the public and politicians to deists from making statements which place the investigations into jeopardy,” he said.
He said there was a possibility that the 11 vehicles recovered from the basement could have been used in perpetration of politically-motivated violence.