On the 19th of October 2019, Hilton Tamangani died while in police custody. Tamangani was a street vendor selling vegetables, fruits and farm produce to try and fend for his family. The crime he had committed is that of fighting for his family’s survival! On the same incident that saw the arrest of Tamangani, Ruvimbo Muchenje a Newsday Journalist was assaulted while carrying out her duty of news recording. A police officer using a stick hit her camera. Four other police officers started beating her up. What is shocking is that Zimbabwe signed up and agreed to international conventions protecting media personnel. Police brutality is not only against the masses, it’s against all who opposes the ZANU PF and government authorities. Even professionals are not spared in the crackdown. How can people march against removal of sanctions when there are no signs of reform on the behaviour that resulted in the sanctions imposed?
As if in support of the brutal police behaviour, President Emmerson Mnangagwa issued warnings to demonstrators including doctors and lawyers. This he said in the native Shona language: “Magweta ose anoti kuvanhu itai mhirizhonga kana masungwa tinokumiririrai tiri kuvateverera” (All the human rights lawyers that encourage people to demonstrate and promise them free legal support should they get arrested, we will deal with them). “Ma doctors ose vanoti kuvanhu itai humhesvamukono kana mukarohwa tinokurapai pachena, tiri kuvateverera” (All the doctors that promise victims of violence free medical support should they get injured or beaten during demonstrations, we will deal with them). The President is expected to condemn violence in the strongest language but ED’s language does nothing less but brewing violence against civilians.
Looking back into history, the Zim police force together with other state security arms has been a story weapon in favour of the ZANU PF ruling party. It has tortured political activists, cracked whip against protesters, harassed and arrested opposition party leaders including the late Morgan Tsvangirai the main opposition president Nelson Chamisa among others. It has also been used to settle political scores during the ZANU PF intra-party factional fights. Even Emmerson Mnangagwa the current president testifies how he narrowly escaped police arrest at the Forbes border post when he was fleeing his predecessor Robert Mugabe. That is how formidable and ruthless they can be as far as meddling into political affairs is concerned. It’s a known fact that the appointment of senior police officers is political. No wonder why soon after assuming power, Mnangagwa removed the Commissioner General of police Augustine Chihuri and replaced him with Godwin Matanga. As all this is happening, it’s the poor citizenry whose rights are trembled under foot by the partisan force. They are beaten, arrested for matters that do not warrant arrest, extorted, forced to pay bribe and given death threats should they report the police’s abusive behaviour.
In some cases, the mob is flabbergasted by unwarranted provocation and they end up taking justice against the disgusting force in their hands. Such clashes have been fata. In some cases, the police end up resorting to live ammunition against the charged civilians resulting in regrettable loss of life. On the major highways, the police are a menace that leave many travellers sweating in fear dreading their journeys. Experience has taught them the art of getting motorist to pay bribe money. They pounce and prey on their victims who are desperately wishing to escape the tormentors even if it means paying bribe money. The auditor general’s report unearthed glaring evidence of the police using receipt books and point of sale machines unaccounted for by the ZRP finance department when collecting fines revenue.
The entire police force should go through a rigorous culture change. Private assessors should be monitoring activities of these officers who are now becoming a threat to national security. Appointments of senior police officers should not be based on political lines. The force should be non-partisan if it is to serve the people of Zimbabwe. The corruption scourge should be nipped in the butt, corrupt officers should be exposed and fished out.
Article from AFRIC Editorial
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