The welfare of police officers matters


editorial comment

POLICE officers, by their very nature and training, are disciples of command and are expected to follow orders to the letter.

But clearly oblivious of the current economic meltdown that has affected many across the country, made worse by the hyperinflationary environment, police bosses ordered “intermittent transfers” that were set to affect more than 1 111 officers, at their own cost.

As they were expected, like sheep to the slaughter, to follow the orders, three daring officers, Detective Constable Bryn Moyo (CID Theft, Harare), Sergeant Terrence Zireva (Budiriro) and Assistant Inspector Emmanuel Chipanda (Ruwa Police Station), took the matter to the High Court, explicitly laying out how and why it was impractical to be transferred to different workstations at their cost given the paltry salaries they were getting.

They won the case and Justice Benjamin Chikowero halted the transfers, ordering the respondents, the Zimbabwe Republic Police Chief of Staff, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, to “stop it”.

Quite a relief, but the story can only show one thing: that the bosses are blind to the plight of their subjects. Either that or they do not care.

Transferring an employee comes with a cost and it was only proper for the police bosses to consider that.

In transferring the officers, there is need for transport that the police is certainly not providing, there is need to consider their accommodation which we are told is insufficient in most police camps.

The police officers who were set to be affected correctly argued that the “intermittent transfers” were not feasible with an average salary of $1 300, not enough for rentals, without even thinking of basic foodstuffs, school fees for children and schools’ transfer costs, among other things.

It took the bravery of only three officers to save the rest from these rather cruel transfers that were clearly not alive to the realities on the ground.

Police officers are known to follow the law and stand guided by their motto: Pro Lege, Pro Patria, Pro Populo, Latin for “For the law, for the nation, and for the people.”

It can only be difficult for them to stand for all this if their rights were not considered, first and foremost as humans.

As officers of the law, they do not live in a vacuum. They are affected by the hyperinflationary environment just like nurses, doctors, teachers and other civil servants or populace.

They buy from the same shops just like any other citizens, since the promised garrison shops are yet to materialise. They use the same public transport which is now beyond reach and live in the same neighbourhoods like all of us where rentals are now being demanded in United States dollars, far beyond their capability.

Forcing them to transfer to new cities and towns at their own cost can only be described as unfair to put it mildly. Police officers are human too.

They may be believers in command and the law, but they sometimes need to stand up and seek protection when the orders go against any sense of justice.