MORE than 40 children in Zimbabwe’s second largest city, Bulawayo, have been admitted to hospital after inhaling teargas let off by riot police inside their halls of residence at Burombo block of flats, a human rights lawyer has claimed.
The incident took place when police responded to sporadic attacks by a group of young people during demonstrations against President Robert Mugabe two weeks ago.
Abammeli Human Rights Lawyers Network director, Tineyi Mukwewa, said police had used teargas and water cannons inside the Burombo flats, as they tried to flush out suspects.
Mukwewa said his organisation was documenting and assessing the cases before “taking the necessary litigation measures”.
He said at least 43 children and four adults had been taken to a private hospital.
“The kids were trapped inside and were unable to breathe, because the flats have no proper ventilation. We, therefore, had to rush them to a hospital for treatment,” Mukwewa said.
Mukwewa claimed that some of the children, aged between three and 16, were coughing up blood.
Lezina Mohamed, who organised medical assistance for the affected children, said it was heart-breaking to see children vomiting and being unable to breathe properly.
She said the police were vicious and had not allowed those affected access to immediate medical help.
“It was a horrible sight to see. Even today, some of the kids are still not well, they have running tummies and are still vomiting,” Mohamed explained
But, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo has defended the police, saying they were “responding with corresponding force to violence” by anti-government protestors.
Meanwhile, Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva has granted $50 bail to 17 Beitbridge residents facing public violence charges following their arrest in connection with the riots that rocked the border town on July 1 this year.
Takuva conceded that Beitbridge magistrate, Gloria Takundwa had failed to look at the personal circumstances of each of the suspects.
In denying them bail, Takundwa argued that the suspects were a flight risk and likely to interfere with investigations.
The suspects, represented by Reason Mutimba, will now appear in court for routine remand tomorrow.