I don’t know about these days, but one of the most shaming things back in the days was when a learner was sent back home because he or she didn’t have a uniform.
It was shaming on the learner and shameful for the parents or guardians to have failed to buy—or even patch up—the uniform.
Both the learner and the parent or guardian were easily stigmatised.
Well, we never really thought about the reasons for the failure — some of them clearly genuine — but just decided to focus on the end of the pole.
Generally, most of us were from poor families, but, somehow, there was this collective construct that there were certain types of poverty that were not acceptable, like failing to get a school uniform for your child.
If you then belonged to that type of failure, it showed that you seriously lacked arrangement.
Now you get to hear that a whole police service and a whole government are failing to provide uniforms for recruits.
A pass-out was due recently at the Mkushi Training Academy, formerly known as Morris Depot. But that pass-out has been indefinitely postponed.
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That’s because the graduating recruits don’t have uniforms to wear during the pass-out parade.
That’s as intriguing as it is tragic. In the old days, every recruit would get full sets of uniforms upon attestation or towards graduation, comprising the “riot gear” that was used for drills as well as the fawn suits.
The fawn suit is the one that is normally used for the pass-out parades and, when you get deployed to a station, the mandatory parades like annual or pre-annual inspection if they are happening in summer.
There have been postponements of police pass-out ceremonies in the past, yes.
The reasons, though, were understandable, like the unplanned availability of the guest of honour or an untimely death of a key figure.
But failing to do a pass-out as scheduled because there are no uniforms must be a record breaker for the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
While one may be tempted to view it as an isolated case, the truth is that it actually indicate a serious systemic failure. Things could be falling very much apart in the police systems.
The ZRP has, or must have, at least three support services that are relevant to this whole thing.
It has, or must have, the projects section. This one is meant to generate income so as to sustain the police’s resource requirements.
Traditionally, projects under this section have included farms, canteens, messes and clubs.
During Augustine Chihuri’s time, they had successfully added the roads section whereby they would extort millions of dollars from motorists, but this one is not worth talking about because most of the money went into personal wallets and the project has since been closed out.
There is also the ordnance section.
This one is for the procurement, storage and distribution of police clothing and dry rations.
Then there is the clothing factory that is meant to manufacture police uniforms and other items.
The failure to timely manufacture and distribute fawn suits for pass-out parades means that at least one of the above sections is malfunctioning.
Let’s put the ordnance section aside, because that one is a distribution centre, so its performance and sustainability depend on the performance and effectiveness of the other two.
The failure means that the clothing factory is failing to do its work and the projects unit is either dormant, dead or gasping for air. But failure is failure, no matter what tone or colour it takes.
The question is: Why is there such an embarrassing deterioration in police systems? The answer is, the rot has been coming over a long time.
During the Chihuri days, police projects were turned into personal money-spinning ventures. You will remember the Kuyedza Women’s Club that Chihuri’s wife turned into her own.
You will remember the Police Printers section which produced fake Z69J books for use by an equally fake roads section.
There were several other projects that were used to rake in the money by senior cops, especially at PGHQ. The names are there but we are not naming names yet.
The point is, cumulative corruption and mismanagement have immensely contributed to the rot in the ZRP systems, to the extent of severe non-delivery.
Chihuri is gone and tucked away in self-exile in some foreign country and we can’t keep flogging him.
What we need to know is what Godwin Matanga, the commissioner general who replaced Chihuri, has been or is doing about it.
It's six years since Chocha hit the tarmac, so it would always be unhelpful to be blaming everything on Chihuri.
Matanga is a cool dude by my own standards, especially when you compare him with Chihuri. But you know what, nice guys are sometimes very useless.
They use the tag of niceness to mask their faults. I would like to think that the new CG is not doing what a real man must do to turn the tide.
So, in this case, I’m partially blaming the systemic rot on the PGHQ management or, more like it, lack of it.
The sanctions mantra is tired and trite.
Clearly, PGHQ can use its creativity to resurge the projects and do good revenue that can meet some of the basic requirements of the law enforcer.
ZRP is under-utilising its farms etc. It’s sitting on big money because farming, for instance, still pays in Zimbabwe. It needs to consult able experts to advise it on how to turn its projects into cash cows, and there are plenty of them out there.
The blame, of course, doesn’t end with the ZRP. Central government must also rock the buck. The so-called Second Republic is spending mega money on all the wrong priorities. Take the purchase of the 32 Russian copters earlier this year, for instance. We were told that six of them would be given to the police, even though there is hardly any evidence that things went out on that route.
Here is the thing. The 32 helicopters cost a dizzying US$320 million. That means one heli cost or costs US$10 million. Never mind the price inflation.
That’s a seriously normal thing here in Zimbabwe. If the ZRP gets or got six helis, it means an equivalent of US$60 million.
Now, imagine how much that kind of money would buy for ZRP. A tenth of the money would buy enough uniforms for all the cops around, their children and spouses as well as all the unborn baby police for two or three coming generations.
Part of the money would go towards the purchase of station vehicles, replace the now creaky radios, refurbish the canteens and messes and set up new projects. After that, there would still be lots of change to then steal.
The Finance ministry is also to blame, perennially slashing proposed police budgets. It’s not clear what politics is at play here?
Is it that the post-Mugabe dispensation still doesn’t trust the police and would, therefore, not want to see it empowered?
You see, there is one thing that beats me all the time. Why is it that we are never short of combat uniform for the “riot” police yet we can’t get fawn suits for a pass-out parade?
There is one big possibility. Our government is always in fighting mode.
But then, who will they use to do the fighting with innocent protesters on the streets if recruits are not going to be able to graduate from the police academies merely because they don’t have uniforms?
*Tawanda Majoni writes in his personal capacity and can be contacted on [email protected]