I must start by acknowledge that there are as many good police officers out there, who do their jobs diligently, show commitment to serve and live simple lives as per their poor earnings.
with Rashweat Mukundu
Many walk as many kilometres to work, live in poor and sometimes cabin houses, some of the “houses” are only still standing by the grace of God and many struggle to feed their families.
Yet they remain committed to duty and do so daily despite the odds.
Members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) who have been on international duty with the United Nations, be it to Sudan, Kosovo or Liberia, have acquitted themselves well, hence the enthusiasm by the UN to have these men and women serve on its peacekeeping missions.
There is a noted dichotomy, akin to the Sahara Desert and the Amazon rain forest, between the lives of the ordinary police officers and their police chiefs who live pecunious lives comparable to CEOs of multi-billion dollar corporations.
While the ordinary police officers, especially the traffic cops are infamous for demanding bribes at every turn, some of these petty police crimes are, to some extent, attributable to appalling employment conditions, that include low salaries and this is a problem affecting the whole civil service.
A few weeks ago a police internal investigations team arrested some of their own manning a police roadblock in the Midlands, and the culprits had a paltry $15 on them which they could not account for.
That may as well tell of the desperation of the juniors. While not condoning such practices, one hopes that tight controls and an improvement in their conditions of service will improve morale and infuse a more professional approach to work.
Petty police misdemeanours are more of a national nuisance than something that should keep everyone awake. The real danger to Zimbabwe’s security and the safety of citizens are reports of how the senior police officers, some occupying ranks of Commissioners, have entered and are running the criminal world.
The media has been reporting on how citizens have been threatened, arrested, and had their businesses and property taken away and the name of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri has been used and abused in the alleged crimes.
This behaviour by the senior police officers has the potential to turn the whole national police force into a criminal force and that will endanger not only lives, but pose a threat to national security as such officers can be bought for a price by whomsoever has the resources and for whatever reasons.
The commission of serious crimes that are either led or covered up by senior police officers means that the function of the whole system is at risk and apart from wearing uniforms and using public property assigned to them, the “police” will no longer be the police as we know it, but a mafia feeding on the State for personal benefit. Allegations are that senior police officers are involved in car stealing, property grabs, and covering up crimes.
Any management expert will tell you that this behaviour can only happen in the absence of controls, where a culture of impunity is entrenched, and where juniors are so petrified of their seniors that the seniors’ word is obeyed than the command book.
In some instances, junior officers are reported to have failed to stop patently “illegal” actions by seniors simply because they were Commissioners. When such kind of things happen, corruption is no longer a nuisance like the $5 demanding traffic cop, but a national crisis that needs a response and attention from those responsible at the highest level of the command; that is, by Chihuri himself and by the President who appointed him. Could it be that our senior police officers are spending too much time looking for money than focusing on their work?
We hear that some of the alleged culprits run all sorts of businesses, from leisure centres, to farms, to companies. At what point do these individuals get time to run the police force, to sit and follow issues and execute their duties, we ask? Or is it that these people simply wear the uniform to use it to pursue money, connect with the underworld and become godfathers in the uniform of the ZRP?
For this reason, we call upon the Commissioner-General to explain to citizens the depth of this crisis and what he is doing about it. Simply hiding behind ZRP public relations statements is not enough. In normal societies, the allegations being published in the media are enough for someone either to resign or to be fired.
Many of us can only wonder what else has been done by these individuals which remains unknown. How many ordinary citizens have fallen foul of these gangs and have decided to keep silent for fear of retribution? The Chinese say a fish rots from head, and it may as well be true that the leadership of the ZRP must be put under scrutiny.
If individuals in the police force are indeed genuine businesspersons, why don’t they leave the ZRP and contribute to employment generation and economic development by running their businesses fulltime? It is clear that many of these individuals are not businesspersons, but criminals abusing State institutions and their offices for self-enrichment. Left alone, many cannot run a tuckshop, and this is the real tragedy befalling the ZRP should the alleged corrupt dealings be true.
In essence, citizen can only expect so much from the ZRP and where citizen rights are violated and the seniors’ interests are involved, then justice will not be served. At one point, corruption watchdog Transparency International named the ZRP as one of the most corrupt national institutions, and the reaction from the ZRP was that of anger and threats.
With the latest media exposés, we now look forward to the same vigorous response from the ZRP, not necessarily denying, but telling us what is going on. We know Commissioner-General Chihuri to be an outspoken person, who expresses his mind and engages when he feels challenged.
This time around, and if there is any self-respect, he needs to face society and explain what is going on. Whether it is true of not that he is surrounded by corrupt juniors. Not traffic officers, but his deputies, and, as other media houses say, his right-hand persons. In other words, I am saying the Commissioner-General must clean up his backyard or ship out.