HARARE – Police bosses must clean up the corrupt police officers to set an example of how to police responsibly, observers have said.
This comes after several cops have been filmed extorting money from motorists at roadblocks in an embarrassment for commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri.
Endemic police corruption — ranging from traffic violation bribes to openly aiding gangs – is undermining Chihuri’s attempts to crush crime.
At least 357 police officers were suspended from the force over misconduct over the past year, with numerous other fresh criminal cases being brought before the courts since the beginning of this year.
Home Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni has told the National Assembly that they have gone to Morris Depot where the police are trained, keen to see the material they are using.
“It is very up to standard and very professional,” he said.
“When the police officers are trained and deployed on the ground, some are doing other things that are not according to the police policy as a force, which they need to be disciplined on.
“The disciplining mechanism which is there in the police has actually seen the suspension of more than 357 police officers last year who had been doing other things that are outside their working scope.
“Therefore, it is also the duty of the public to understand what is expected from a policeman so that if that police officer commits something outside the working scope, he/she has to be reported so that we deal with the police officer.”
In two high-profile cases, Mbare officer-in-charge Violet Sigauke and Vehicle Theft Squad exhibit officer Grace Tsingano swallowed bribe money after being busted while receiving bribes.
Badly paid and ill-equipped, patrol cops have long supplemented their pay with small bribes from motorists and petty criminals. But the rise in traffic cops’ power and their ability to take on any motorist has taken police corruption to a new level.
Analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa said the runaway police graft was a manifestation of a dysfunctional government.
“The whole system is now corrupt to the core. In terms of traffic police, it is now clear their main focus is collecting money. Ultimately, owning a car in Zimbabwe is not far away from having cocaine or marijuana in your pocket.
“What it means is Zimbabwe needs policing reforms,” Hamauswa said.
Mguni told the parliamentary portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development that he had received requests from MPs and community leaders to have their children seconded to the ZRP’s traffic section.
“I have received more than four requests from Members of Parliament and they are asking me to say ‘my son or my daughter is in the police force, he wants to be transferred to the traffic.’
“I have told Levy Sibanda, who is deputy commissioner-general for human resources that here are the names of daughters and sons of MPs who want to be transferred to traffic. Can you interview them why they want to be transferred to traffic, what is the reason? “
Kurauone Chihwayi, spokesperson of the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, said: “This is an official confirmation that we have a corrupt police force in Zimbabwe. We are dealing with shameless hungry jackals banking on filthy strategies for survival.
“The statement by Mguni portrays Zimbabwe in bad light internationally.
“It is a clear reflection that the corruption cancer dwells in the veins of the Robert Mugabe regime and is now being used as a fundraising tactic to raise money for the party.”
Opposition People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume scorned the police force for deliberately engaging in criminal activities yet they are regarded as custodians of the law.
“It has become an extortionate exercise and the police are now the legalised highway robbers terrorising motorists that they are supposed to safeguard on the roads. I think as Zimbabweans, we just don’t get angry, otherwise we should not let these rogue elements continue killing our nation,” Mafume said.
Still, some police officers are innocent and have a strong sense of public service that overcomes the low pay and lack of equipment.
Officials and the general public often praise the bravery of honest Zimbabwean cops working in tough conditions.
Honest police officers are, however, despondent and frustrated because Zimbabwe’s weak and largely corrupted justice system means the criminals they catch are often freed soon afterwards.
A recent robbery syndicate bust along Northway and Ceres Roads in Waterfalls is a commendable effort by the Mbare Police Dog Section that yielded good results.
Members of the well-organised armed robbery syndicate — using knives, knobkerries and axes to attack residents in the suburb at night – were arrested by the vigilant cops.
This comes after six other armed robbers appeared in court last month for killing four people and seriously injuring eight others in Hatcliffe and Kuwadzana in Harare and in Ruwa in a deadly terror reign.
It’s to police chief Chihuri’s credit that he has helped to build, retain and direct a high-calibre force of deputies, detectives and commanding officers that can crack tough cases.
But there are two sides to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP): One that is efficient, effective and honest and one that is the opposite; inefficient, unproductive and corrupt.
There are frank and diligent policemen like the ones manning the Mbare Dog Section, which has rose to fame with its successful crackdown on dangerous armed robbers.
There are, however, murder cases that not only go unresolved, but very often are never investigated in the first place such as Itai Dzamara’s disappearance.
There are almost daily contradictory news about the performance of the police in the Zimbabwean media. It is as if the press is reporting on two entirely dissimilar organisations.
There are indeed a lot of good stories on the ZRP. However, examples of pitiable and even awful performances also flourish. This is the less admirable side of the ZRP.
Western governments have warned the country that it must do more to fight endemic corruption.
Graft and organised crime have been cited as the main obstacles for the southern African country in attracting foreign direct investment.