HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsPolice must be non-partisan

Police must be non-partisan

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The recent ban by the police of an MDC-T rally, set to be addressed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is yet another clear sign that the political playing field in Zimbabwe is not level. No Zanu PF rally has ever been banned by the police.

What makes this particular case interesting is that the MDC-T secured a High Court order allowing the rally to proceed, but the police went on to barricade the venue in a clear sign the return of the rule of the law is still a pipe dream in Zimbabwe.

Judicial independence, too, has been thrown out the window, thanks to the dysfunctionality of the unstable government of national unity built on shifting sands.

This, indeed, clearly justifies the calls for security sector reforms as the police and other security arms have repeatedly demonstrated they are pandering to certain political whims.

In fact, police chief Augustine Chihuri is on record declaring his allegiance to Zanu PF. Of course, he is allowed to support or sympathise with a political party of his choice, but as soon as he wears that uniform, the game changes.

Armed anti-riot police literally locked themselves inside Chinotimba Stadium, Victoria Falls, as early as 6am and cordoned off the venue to prevent the rally. This came hard on the heels of yet another MDC-T rally interrupted in Lupane.

What it means is the MDC-T is effectively barred from holding rallies in Zimbabwe. It is interesting to note that the police, who always claim to have limited manpower, suddenly and miraculously have the manpower when it comes to prohibiting rallies of those they consider dissenting voices.

It is amazing that while we are still stuck in this archaic and uncivilised behaviour, other nations in Southern Africa have moved on and democratised the political space in their countries, accommodating opposition political parties, some of which have gone on to win elections in a violence-free environment. Why can’t we learn from that?

While the police have the discretion to determine whether or not a rally can be held, after security considerations, we would like to know how they arrive at that kind of decision.

It cannot be contested that if indeed genuine security concerns exist, the rally has to be stopped, but could every MDC-T rally be a threat to security while all Zanu PF rallies are not?

If Zimbabwe claims to be a democracy, as our leaders say, then there has to be a paradigm shift in the manner that the police treat the different political parties in the country.

These are probably some of the things that Sadc looks at in its political assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe, and people should not cry foul when reports on facts on the ground are produced. “Noted” or “endorsed”, the reports that come out portraying facts should not be denied or the writers vilified.

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