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Comment: Rogue police give Zim bad image

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Sanctions, restrictive measures or whatever name one may prefer to call the economic embargo that the Western world has slapped on Zimbabwe, stand out as one issue that singularly threatens the country’s socio-political and economic fabric.

Central to the West’s argument justifying the sanctions and the denial of this fact by Zimbabwe authorities is this animal called the Rule of Law.

The United States, Britain and their allies maintain there is no rule of law in Zimbabwe while the government argues otherwise.

There is nothing that a visitor to Zimbabwe could immediately associate with lawlessness. Zimbabwe is indeed a relatively peaceful country – at least since the formation of the inclusive government – where people are free to move around and go about their business without fear of any predictable harm.

So, on the face of it, there is law and order in Zimbabwe. Are the accusations by the country’s so-called detractors therefore out of mere malice and a desperate need for an excuse to punish President Robert Mugabe and his government because of the land reform programme?

Without going far to cite reasons and evidence proffered by the Westerners to support their argument, it is necessary for Zimbabwe to do some introspection. Charity begins at home.

Custodians of justice, and therefore law and order in the country, members of the judiciary, have countless times rapped government law enforcement agents for acting unlawfully.

Many a time, magistrates and judges have complained about the police and other government security agents taking the law into their own hands or acting in utter defiance of the laws of the land.

Only yesterday we published a story in which High Court judge, Justice Nicholas Mathonsi, was at pains to remind the country’s law enforcement agents that Zimbabwe had a constitution, that citizens had rights and that the police could not act against the constitution of the country even if they had the handcuffs, truncheons and detention cells.

The judge expressed outrage that the police seemed to act with impunity — trashing the laws of the land and depriving citizens of their liberties.

Justice Mathonsi, who was dealing with a case where a political activist was detained for more than 14 days without charge, did not mince his words blasting the police behaviour.

He said it was “shuddering” to imagine how many people had fallen victim of this police assault on their liberties.

“To think that other suspects out there, not so fortunate to afford legal representation, have their rights trampled upon as a result of the ignorance of the law enforcement agents is shuddering,” the judge said.

He said it was “regrettable that senior police officers policing an entire region would believe that they had a legal right to detain suspects for a period of 14 days, when no such right existed”.

It is individuals like this Officer Commanding Nkayi District, Jairos Wilstaff Chiwona, (who is cited as one of the defendants in the activist’s case)that are responsible for the perception that there is lawlessness in the country and therefore sanctions that the country is groaning under should stay.

Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri and his fellow security chiefs should not allow the actions of their personnel portray to Zimbabwe as a lawless country — either by commission or omission.

These men and women have it in their power to change the image of this country.

Police brutality and military deployment into civilian areas for political reasons gives Zimbabwe a bad image and all the excuse that anybody with other agendas may need to punish us.

If our policing was professional and our military and other security personnel executed their mandates without political interference, Zimbabwe would be a good, lawful and prosperous country to live in.

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