By Kumbirai Mafunda
The City of Harare (CoH) has been ordered to pay more than US$3 000 to a motorist as compensation for damage to his vehicle which was battered after it fell into an unmarked ditch, which was left uncovered by the local authority’s employees.
With the assistance of Fiona Iliff of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Phillip Mutare, a motorist and his wife Mercy Mutare sued CoH in November 2017 demanding payment of US$3 704 after their vehicle was extensively damaged on 20 May 2017 when it fell into an unattended trench in the middle of the road along Harare Drive in the capital.
In the summons, Iliff faulted the CoH for breaching its duty of care by failing to take reasonable precautions to protect motorists, and other members of the public, from harm which was easily foreseeable and ought to have been guarded against.
The trench in which Mutare’s vehicle fell in, had been created by CoH employees as they were carrying out some repair works and was left unattended without any warning signs, lights, tape or barriers at the site of the hazard to protect members of the public or animals from falling in.
This resulted in Mutare’s vehicle falling headlong into the trench, causing the airbags to come out while his wife Mercy, sustained some injuries on her wrist and shoulder as a result of the impact, as well as suffering emotional shock.
Iliff said Mutare and his wife only managed to exit the vehicle through the rear door and were assisted by some onlookers to climb out of the trench.
As a result of the incident, the human rights lawyer said Mutare and Mercy suffered trauma and shock at encountering such a hazard in a public road and having their vehicle damaged including suffering physical harm.
While Mutare and his wife had demanded payment of a total of US$3 704, Harare Magistrate Yeukai Dzuda on Friday 30 August 2019 ordered CoH to pay the couple a total of US$3 204 of which US$2 604 is for special damages for the repair of their vehicle, US$100 to cover the cost of towing the vehicle from the scene after it was damaged and US$500 for emotional shock, trauma, pain, and the suffering they endured.
Mutare and his wife are the latest persons to successfully sue CoH after the local authority recently paid ZWL$2 500 as compensation to Obvious Katambarare, a Harare resident who was injured owing to the local authority’s negligence after some dilapidated metal sheets fell on him at Mbare Musika bus terminus.