Gregory Isaacs concert victim awarded $8000

A Bulawayo music fan who was shot and wounded by police after violence broke out at White City Stadium because fans were disappointed with the short performance by international reggae singer, Gregory Isaacs, has been awarded $8 704.17 in damages by High Court Judge, Justice Blackie.

The concert was held in Bulawayo on February 6, 1988 a week after another in Harare which also ended in violence because fans were not satisfied with Isaacs' performance.

Alwyn Payne, who said he had gone to the concert with his fiancée and a friend, said he sensed trouble when Gregory Isaacs who was supposed to play for two hours left the stage after playing only five or six songs.

He said he left the stadium shortly after the singer left the stage with his fiancée and friend because the crowd was angry and disappointed and many expressed their feelings by hailing abuses and missiles at the stage.

The police and military police moved the crowd outside the stadium and then eastwards down the main road leading to the city. An army dog handler was injured and police were stoned.

Payne, who had left before the violence, said as they were walking towards the city and were about 300 metres away from the stadium, they heard a commotion behind them. They saw a large crowd burst out of the stadium and come down the road chased by an extended line of police reservists and military police.

Some shots with blank ammunition were fired by police into the crowd. The crowd passed them and as the extended line of police got to where they were, police shouted at them to run. None of those he was travelling with did so. Payne said he was afraid to turn his back on the police as he feared that he might be struck or shot from behind with blank ammunition.

Instead of running, he said, he walked backwards from the police. As he was doing so, a man in grey shirt and khakhi shorts of the police uniform and carrying an Uzi machine gun came from behind the extended police line and ordered him to run.

The policeman fired a short burst into the ground between Payne and his friend. Payne's friend turned and ran. Payne turned half round and continued to walk backwards away form the policeman. The policeman fired another short burst. Payne turned and ran but shortly afterwards realised that he had been shot in the leg. He was taken to Bulawayo Central Hospital.

Medical evidence before the court showed that Payne was treated for two bullet wounds, one on the left thigh and the other on the left foot.

Payne was detained in hospital for seven days while on treatment. Two weeks after his release he went on out-patient treatment. The wounds were dressed daily. Moderate numbness in his left foot has resulted in a one percent disability. About two months after being shot, Payne was found to have a deformed casing of a bullet in his calf. This was removed.

Payne, who was aged 34 at the time of the shooting, said he had played football all his life. In his adulthood he had played second division football and occasionally played in the first division.

The injuries he had suffered, he said, had created a difficulty for him in running. He had also developed a limp when he walked fast. As a result he had left league football. Although he had also tried social football, he found it difficulty to run and was therefore too slow to be effective. He said he had now been reduced to watching football.

Two senior police officers who gave evidence on behalf of the Minister of Home Affairs who was being sued by Payne, said there was no policeman on duty who was dressed or armed in the manner described by Payne. They said if there was such a policeman then he was acting reasonably in defence of property or he was acting entirely on his own initiative so the Minister of Home Affairs could not be held responsible for his actions.

Judge Blackie said although he was not suggesting that the two officers who gave evidence in defence were untruthful or unreliable he saw no reason on the police evidence to accept the suggestion that the policeman who shot Payne was either acting reasonably to prevent damage to property or that he was on some mission entirely of his own and outside the responsibility of the Minister of Home Affairs.

He ruled therefore that Payne's injuries were caused by an unnecessary and unlawful use of force by a policeman while on duty and that the Minister of Home Affairs was liable for the injuries suffered by Payne.

He therefore awarded Payne $704.17 in special damages which had been agreed upon by the two parties. He also awarded Payne $8 000 in general damages. The Minister of Home Affairs was also ordered to pay court costs.

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