Corruption Watch: Police corruption: Glimmer in the gloom

The roadblocks stink because the details who man them don’t do it in order to enforce the law.

This past week, a spook’s shadow passed by my stoep, and that’s as ominous as it is repulsive.

What happened is, a detail from the Police Internal Security and Intelligence (Pisi) branch called me and started on a nice note by asking how my holidays were going.

Since there was nothing bad about the holidays until then, I told him things were fine.

Because he had forgotten the etiquette of introducing himself, I had to grumpily ask him, to which he said he was from police ntelligence, Harare Central police station—without mentioning his name at that stage.

Ok, so what can I do for you? We are making an inquiry relating to your organisation, so where are your offices and are you at work? I told him.

That was problem number one.

How does it happen that a police intelligence service man doesn’t know where our offices are located when the internet is so full of our address?

But that wasn’t going to be my issue because I’m not responsible for training the police.

Problem number two, the detail wouldn’t tell me what Pisi wanted IDT and I in connection with.

Not surprising, though, in a country where almost every arrest that is made—particularly in politically-motivated cases—is an abduction in hue and attitude.

Thing is, criminal procedure requires that you inform a suspect of the nature of the case that he or she is being investigated around, in addition to all the basic details.

 On a scale of one to 10, nothing like that ever happens.

That means the arresting details are acting criminally right from the start.

But it also means that the arrests they make, in cases where they waylay you and take you away forcefully, are, literally, kidnappings or abductions.

This violation of the law happens so often that it has become the norm rather than the exception. But I digress.

There is a high possibility that the Pisi detail that called me is abusing his office on behalf of someone influential.

And this is what I’m going to talk about, with mixed feelings.

Just before Christmas, we helped publicise a bizarre issue whereby a very senior police officer based in Kwekwe got mired in some muddy patch he should have avoided right from the start.

There are traffic details who ritually man the Kwekwe-Zhombe road, just as their colleagues do on the other roads.

These police details extort money from each and every passing motorist they suspect to be illegally transporting passengers.

Granted, you never fall short of the pirate taxis, seeing as it is that Zupco and government are at sixes and sevens to provide adequate public transport.

The roadblocks stink because the details who man them don’t do it in order to enforce the law.

Instead, the blocks are there to abuse the law through extortion and bribery and senior officers know that.

That’s the main reason you see the pirate taxis always on the road. If the police were properly doing their job, there would be none by now.

What then happened is that this particular superintendent got a report of the Kwekwe-Zhombe cops who extorted US$5 from a motorist who was ferrying mourners.

 Instead of investigating the issue, you know what he did? He ordered the aggrieved motorist to his office, gave him back the $5 and told him to move on.

Meanwhile, the motorist became a sorry subject of persecution by the traffic cops who he had reported, and the superintendent in question conveniently gave it a blind eye.

One thing followed another and, at the end, the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (Act-SA) started making big noise about it.

That led to another issue.

The superintendent started victimising the Act-SA director for yapping about the $5 extortion and how the senior officer had shoddily managed the issue.

Things worsened when we publicised the issue.

So, you note that the superintendent and his juniors were abusing their office, with thick impunity.

 That got the Act-SA director, Obert Chinhamo, so scared because he was getting threatening calls from the police and other shady corners head, torso and toes, almost every day.

But the media attention that these developments got through us brought a glimmer to the gloom that has become typical of police operations, and this is one positive thing that needs to be applauded.

The commissioner general of police intervened from PGHQ.

Like I have said in the past, the CG, Godwin Matanga, is not so much of a bad guy.

He is, generally, a gentleman working within a very bad system that is the Zimbabwean government.

As we are talking, it's helter-skelter.

The police has launched a thorough investigation into the rot in Kwekwe, particularly the conduct of the superintendent we are talking about.

Kudos must also go to the new officer commanding Kwekwe district, Chief Superintendent Ison Chapeta.

If Kwekwe is not going to corrupt him in the long run, he looks like the perfect dude for the job.

He is so forthright on corrupt officers and it looks like he is going to take the senior officer to the cleaners for what he did.

He has also declared zero tolerance to corruption and seems genuinely worried about the graft that has become so typical within the police service.

To cap it all, Chapeta has assured Chinhamo and those fighting corruption in the district of his protection, given the threats that they have been facing of late.

He has actually offered himself to be personally involved in the fight against corruption in his district.

The action that is being taken on the superintendent and his subordinates shows one thing.

If the police want, corruption in the police service can be reduced drastically. All that is needed is will power.

How I wish that what is currently happening in Kwekwe can be repeated across the country.

My advice to the commissioner general is that he must set up a serious structure to strategise on and implement around fighting corruption.

I know that there is a small anti-corruption unit domiciled under his office, but much needs to be done.

Matanga, if he doesn’t know already, should be aware of how rampant the practice of abuse of office by his subordinates, officers and members is.

If he fails to take this seriously, he will answer for the sins of his troops. 

  • Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on [email protected]

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