HARARE – Zimbabwe’s police service could collapse if no urgent action is taking to lift the morale of police officers through better pay, fixing key infrastructure and providing modern operational tools, a cross-party parliamentary committee has warned.
The “morale of officers across the entire police service was at its lowest ebb despite their demonstration of resilience and patriotism” and “further procrastination to redress the various challenges in the entire organisation has the potential of collapsing the policing system due to increased indiscipline and poor service delivery,” the portfolio committee on defence, home affairs and security services said.
The committee conducted an inquiry into the state of infrastructure and service delivery by the Zimbabwe Republic Police between October and November last year.
In a report presented to parliament, the MPs said “the state of infrastructure across the 10 provinces leaves a lot to be desired.”
“Dilapidated institutional and residential accommodation, poor ablution facilities resulting in officers opting for the bush system, obsolete office furniture, inadequate tools of trade, use of ineffective policing equipment which is inconsistent with contemporary policing technology, inadequate transport and fuel supplies are just but a few of the many signs and symptoms of an ailing policing system,” the lawmakers said.
The committee, chaired by retired Brigadier General Levy Mayihlome (Zanu PF), said it “deduced that the majority of the challenges faced by the ZRP are a result of underfunding and delayed release of funds by the treasury.”
The committee said accounting mechanisms could be put in place to allow the ZRP to retain some funds, including fines and proceeds from its economic activities.
Lawmakers found that police stations, especially in rural areas, had no working landline phones with officers using their personal mobile phones to conduct business.
The report went on: “Poor remuneration and lack of incentives have the potential of fueling collusion and corruption amongst members of the police service, especially along the country’s borders thereby affecting service delivery and compromising the security of the nation.
“The use of personal communication devices and computers in policing seriously compromises the security of information and should be discouraged at all costs.
“The absence of an integrated communication system that promotes intra-station, inter-station, intra-district and inter-district, intra and inter-provincial linkages has far-reaching implications on effective policing and service delivery. A switch to the use of contemporary and robust communication devices and strategies that are in tandem with global policing trends should be prioritised by the relevant ministry if improvements on service delivery are to be realised.”
Members of the public have “lost confidence in the service delivery of the ZRP due to increasing cases of indiscipline especially among junior staff officers within and outside the working environment,” the MPs said.
The MPs were critical of the state of the general infrastructure at police stations, including holding cells where suspects are detained before making a court appearance.
“Ventilation was very poor in the majority of cells that were visited by the committee. Some had toilets which were no longer usable. In worse scenarios, some stations did not have holding cells thereby resorting to using charge offices for detaining suspects while others used wooden or metal shacks which were hardly secure for the purpose. This was noted as risking the lives of both officers and suspects in one way or the other,” the MPs noted.
There was also a “scarcity of food and linen for detained suspects.”
“Suspects depended on food provisions from their relatives. In worst scenarios, officers at the stations would provide their personal food to feed detained suspects,” the report said.
The MPs want police officers being transferred to receive a disturbance allowance. They want MPs deployed to “harsh environments” like Kariba, Hwange, Mount Darwin, Nyamapanda and Chiredzi where temperatures are extremely high to receive “heat allowances.”
Allowances should also be paid to officers leaving outside police camps to help with their rentals; undercover officers who do not wear uniforms as well as travel and subsistence.
The ZRP, the lawmakers found, requires about 7,000 vehicles to function efficiently but it currently has 2,167 and only 807 of those were on the road.
It was observed that in its Charter, the ZRP pledges to answer at least 90 percent of all telephone calls within ten seconds or three rings as well as attend to radio calls within three shouts. But as the MPs found, not only do some police stations not have working landlines, there was also no mobile phone connectivity.
“Police stations, especially those in rural and peri-urban areas, did not have working telephone lines while their radio communication gadgets were down for a long time. Police officers had since resorted to using their personal mobile phones thereby making supervision under this sub core area difficult,” they noted.
“To exacerbate the situation, some stations across police provinces did not have mobile network connectivity, making the state of affairs even direr. Instantaneous inter-station and inter-district communication mechanisms were poor, if not non-existent, particularly in remote areas and thus made effective policing very complicated.”
The report said “most stations” were using computers personally owned by police officers, “whilst some relied on external typing services which had to be paid for, posing threats of having confidential information falling into wrong hands.”
“Contemporary technological equipment such as biometric fingerprint machine, photographing and video filming gadgets, CCTV and scanners for use in information and crime management, is essential in modern day policing,” the MPs said.