On Saturday, we carried a story in which the police tortured and maimed a victim of armed robbery in Gweru, suspecting him of committing the crime instead.
Added to rampant and growing complaints of corruption by police in uniform, these incidents show that there is something wrong with the police institution and the ministry responsible for it.
Like a cancer, police brutality and corruption are growing and threatening to destroy public institutions and the entire justice system because they are going unchecked and unpunished.
Sadly, our society has almost accepted this as the new order of the day.
People are now used to paying bribes if apprehended committing an offence and to setting themselves free whenever they are subjected to unfair detention.
It is also common that before setting out on a journey, one has to set some money aside to pay unwritten taxes to the police, otherwise driving on a highway would be a nightmare.
And on the way you are guaranteed to meet more police roadblocks than vehicles and pay 10 or 20 times more at these points than what you would ordinarily pay at tollgates.
On its own, corruption is a bad phenomenon, which must be stamped out by calling the law to duty.
But it is even worse and unfortunate if it is committed by the very law enforcers upon which society has bestowed a high trust to play the moral and legal role.
In its corruption perceptions report last year, Transparency International ranked Zimbabwe 146 out of 180 countries, implying the country is one of the world’s most corrupt countries.
The organisation’s Corruptions Perceptions Index is widely followed by investors worldwide and plays a key role in determining the global distribution of foreign direct investment for the simple reason that corruption tends to increase the cost of doing business.
Zimbabwe’s poor ranking not only explains why investment inflows are so low, but shows that officials in public institutions such as the police have too much discretionary power to twist the justice system in their favour.
We wouldn’t like to believe that the two ministers of home affairs and the commissioner-general don’t know what we are talking about. Their police force is corrupt and brutal.
Yet they don’t seem moved at all.
We would not be wrong at all to qualify this as either neglect or complicity, both of which are a huge undoing to our society, helplessly exposed to rampant police crime!
Although the police would like to justify their recent atrocities on their supposed resolve to curb armed robberies, the truth is police brutality has always been a big concern.
More often than not, the police internationally use excessive force, verbal attacks and psychological intimidation in their operations, including vicious beating of a handcuffed person, or in effecting an arrest, even where there are no reasonable grounds to do so.
According to the local police, every woman who is not indoors at night is a prostitute and must be locked away.
They even patrol nightclub entrances/exits and pubs to pounce on every woman patron leaving the drinking holes, invoking the anti-loitering law.
Clearly, that’s awkward as it falls out of the bounds of loitering unless it is defined by another term. For the most part, this surveillance policing only leads to false arrests and extortion.
It is also quite common for a bicycle police officer to stop people arbitrarily and command them to “come over” and start asking awkward questions about what is in their pockets or where they are going or why they didn’t respond when he/she first beckoned them to stop.
They often take this to mean disrespect towards police officers, which they usually want to treat as a very serious offence. After paying them “freedom tax”, you are then let go.