Lockdown: Orient law enforcers please!

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The circulating images and video clips of soldiers and police officers inhumanely assaulting and degrading civilians for purported defiance of the national lockdown are, indeed, an anathema to the legal enforcement body in its entirety.

The conduct of some members of the uniformed forces represents an unmitigated disaster.

The public has been subjected to all forms of abuse, regardless of gender, creed or religion.

The impunity with which these unlawful acts are committed by young police and army officers befuddles the mind whether they have been oriented at all before starting operations.

One can only look with a dropped jaw whether these overzealous supposed law enforcers ever receive basic legal education on the parameters of their limits.

Their role, as captured in the organic law of the land, is and ends in the ensuring that the law is complied with.

They are neither the final courts of appeal nor the basic headman’s court in the village, a role which they have deviously appointed themselves to.

Even for the children and the elderly in the country especially the densely-populated areas, law enforcement has become associated with terror which should never be the case. It’s really a dent on the noble profession of national security.

The presence and appearance of police officers or soldiers in public places should not trigger panic and alarm to the public as is the current appalling case.

The public in general now has a skewed perception of law enforcement, hence some parents would argue against children opting for a profession in the security forces.

This should never be the case anywhere. What is essentially happening from the brutalisation and assault of people taints the good image of professional security forces everywhere across the world.

Cases abound of how men and women have been forced to roll in sewage water and made to chant demeaning songs to escape the wrath of the security details that have but become a law unto themselves.

It is an inescapable fact that our security men are in terrible need of the position of the law before they set out to do their work.

The question keeps coming back; do they ever receive a dint of legal knowledge before they go for operations?

It could be a case of the law enforcer being the ignorant party and the civilian being the one bearing the end of the ignorance.

The reckless abandon with which some officers assault people fit enough to be their parents bears testament that they may themselves be unaware of the law and they have a poignant view of their duties.

They are, indeed, the proverbial definition of people who are a danger to themselves and to others. They do not even possess that heavenly right to punish adults as they please.

It is against this background that the High Court ruling of last Tuesday ordering police and army to immediately stop the inhumane treatment of civilians during the national lockdown deserves spirited adulation.

As a nation, we also pray that rulings such as these will not simply exist in word, but should exist in earnest.

The infringement on the rights of citizens has been a game that has gone on for long in Zimbabwe. In some cases, the heavy-handedness by security agents has led to deaths of innocent passersby.

All across the world, an adult cannot be punished wantonly as we see here without the express authority of the courts.

Even the courts themselves do not aim to embarrass the convicts, but to reform them. Assaults on civilians must be spoken against and condemned in the strongest terms possible.

Police and soldiers must abide by the ruling of the courts and ensure that the dignity and freedoms of people are protected.

It is the savage conduct of law enforcers that has also given rise to the cancerous problem of outright criminals donning police and army uniforms to commit crimes.

The criminals are assured that whichever unprofessional, uncouth and barbaric way they behave it is difficult for the public to discern.

Faced with a rogue police officer, the public ought to be able to tell that one is an impostor. But how can the public make the vital distinction when the real security officer behaves like an impostor? State agents must not act like rogues.

Soldiers must respect the Constitution of Zimbabwe and must be made to understand that they cannot usurp its supremacy by the mere fact of being clad in military fatigues and holding a firearm.

The existence of a state of emergency still calls for human rights to be upheld as the lockdown has been extended by two more weeks.

The role of security officers is simply to arrest violators of the lockdown and send them to the courts. Police officers and soldiers manning the checkpoints must be humane enough to listen to the voice of reason.

It does not simply follow that just because one is not a member of the army, police or the health sector they cannot have cases of emergency.

 Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer. He writes in his personal capacity