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The Landscape: A partisan police force will earn public ire, not respect, Cde Chihuri

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Last week Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri officiated at the passout parade for 473 police details and took the opportunity to blast the private media whom he accused of empathising and in fact siding with criminals and perpetrators of violence against police officers.

He reiterated his warning that police would deal ruthlessly with people that attacked them because “police officers have a legal right to defend themselves when they are illegally attacked in the course of their duties”.

Fine and good, it is madness for citizens to attack police officers whose job is to protect them.

The question that begs an answer and which Chihuri should ask himself is why this should ever happen.

Come to think of it, the Police Commissioner-General himself could be the author of his own predicament.

Chihuri has openly declared he is a strong and unapologetic member of a political party called Zanu PF and has, in the same breath, accused without hesitation — even when no one has been convicted — what he refers to as “opposition” elements for the attacks on his charges.

By telling the “passing-out” recruits that members of the MDC-T are the bad guys while Zanu PF and all its followers are, like him, the good guys, the police boss is effectively setting the young graduates against the so-called opposition parties and their followers.

The Commissioner-General’s angry outbursts, placing blame for the murder of a police officer in Glen View recently squarely on the MDC-T’s doorstep, reflected badly on his office.

The mandate of the police is to investigate cases, press charges and hand over accused persons to the courts whose prerogative it is to pass judgments.

What we witnessed in the Glen View tragedy is that Chihuri was openly sulking on behalf of his political party. By referring to the MDC-T as “opposition”, Chihuri clearly confirms that all along he has been a partisan Zanu PF supporter who has been masquerading as a commissioner and has lost all objectivity and professionalism.

Instead of acting as investigator and keeper of peace, Chihuri was seen issuing threats on behalf of another political party in unhidden disregard of the principle of natural justice.

While murder is deplorable and must be condemned outright, it is unfortunate the commissioner last week decided to slander the private media.

This is confirmation to Sadc of a highly partisan security sector whose reformation is a matter of urgency.

The Commissioner-General effectively legitimises all accusations against the security sector as a willing appendage of the former ruling Zanu PF party.

Chihuri’s confessed love for Zanu PF dangerously interferes with his public duty to protect all citizens regardless of political association — a very worrying scenario indeed.

The police boss is using police as a vengeance tool rather than to promote peace and justice. His unrestrained behaviour has eroded the little credibility left in the ZRP as a professional body.

Such erosion of credibility, trust and confidence in the police force pushes the public into viewing and treating police as an enemy instead of the peaceful protectors that they should be.

Who knows, the attack on the police by the public may be a demonstration of frustration by the masses of the biased and repressive behaviour of the police — at the behest of their commanders?

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party has in the past called on the controversial police chief to resign for openly saying that the regime will not give in even if Zanu PF lost elections. Chihuri said Zanu PF would not hand over power through the pen.

“This country came through blood and the barrel of the gun and it can never be recolonised through a simple pen, which costs as little as five cents.”

The utterances drew fire from the MDC-T which suggested, like Tsvangirai has recently done to Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba, that the Commissioner-General should leave the police force and take up a post in politics as a fanatic rather than masquerade as a top public service officer who is expected to be neutral and work for all citizens in a just and fair manner.

“No police officer anywhere in the world would survive a day longer in public office if they displayed an openly partisan, discriminatory and biased view of the society they are employed to serve. Chihuri must simply resign and leave Zimbabweans with a professional and uncontaminated force that guarantees the people peace and security while executing their constitutional mandate,” the MDC-T said.

We were told at one time, many senior police officers approached the leaders in the inclusive government to rescue them from Chihuri’s grip in order to perform their duties as professionals.

Such behaviour by the police would seem to reveal a desperate trend inside Zanu PF that without force, President Mugabe’s party has no chance of winning an election. This is the kind of behaviour that vindicates the MDC-T’s desire for comprehensive security sector reform before the party participates in any future national elections.

Under these reforms, the role of security forces must be clearly defined to enable Zimbabweans to exercise their generic right of freedom of expression — with their open hearts and minds — and using the pen as an indispensable tool.

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