Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, the police chief spokesperson, can be quite amazing – even amusing at times. Her livid statements published in a State-owned daily yesterday, attacking this newspaper over its reportage of political violence that took place in Chitungwiza on Wednesday, are intriguing.
The source of her bellyache with the NewsDay report was based on the number of people that were injured in the political violence in which MDC-T activists were attacked by suspected Zanu PF members at a housing co-operative established in the dormitory town by Zanu PF parliamentary aspirant Christopher Chigumba.
NewsDay reported that seven people were injured and mentioned their names, including details of some of the victims’ police reports and also that they had been taken to hospital where they were treated and discharged. Photographs of the people in bandages are available.
Charamba is angry that NewsDay reported that seven people had been injured when, according to her, only four had been attacked by “unknown assailants”.
She said: “In actual fact, four MDC-T supporters were attacked by unknown assailants. They made a report at Chitungwiza Police Station. Police responded and attended the scene. They managed to arrest one accused person.” She reportedly proceeded to say: “They never went to the hospital (Chitungwiza Central Hospital where police had instructed them to go), instead they decided to report to NewsDay. “The Zimbabwe Republic Police is concerned with such newspaper headlines which are meant to cause alarm and despondency.”
The question that screams for answers is whether, even were it true that NewsDay got the figures wrong, four injured people makes the political violence any better than it would have been if seven people had been injured. Political violence in which four people are injured is still as abhorrent as that involving seven and must be exposed and condemned.
What is glaringly curious about the police chief’s outbursts is that she says nothing about condemning the actions of the perpetrators of the violence.
Instead, she attacks the victims for alerting the media about the violence, coming as it did hardly 24 hours after President Robert Mugabe had been in that town imploring his supporters to desist from violence or coercing anybody to support political parties that they did not want.
Reporting cases of political violence is not at all an attempt to cause alarm or despondency. Instead, it informs stakeholders, including the police and political parties, what is obtaining on the ground so that they take action to stem the violence.
We expect Senior Assistant Commissioner Charamba to find the incidents of political violence more repugnant and worrying than media reports that may miss the numbers of victims by three. In fact, it is the duty of the police to provide journalists with correct information when they ask for it.