ZRP needs to gain public trust

HARARE - Public institutions must be credible for them to be effective.

The lack of credibility has been the bane of Zimbabwe’s public institutions.

The same can be said of the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board (Nieeb) after the recent revelations about its handling of indigenisation contracts awarded to Brainworks Capital.

But credibility is much more critical when it comes to institutions charged with preserving law and order.

A young boy, Christpower Maisiri, was recently killed in a house fire in Headlands.

This tragic incident has sparked recrimination among contending political parties apart from the international attention it has attracted.

The reason for the current political counter-charges is that the death has been linked to political violence that has often blighted our pre-election periods.

The police have now released findings that rule out foul play.

Every citizen would want to repose faith in a national police force. After all, any police force justifies its existence from fairly accounting for social deviance and protecting citizens.

Therefore, when a police force announces it is investigating an incident, citizens would, ordinarily have no cause to doubt the force would perform its constitutional duty.

But here is the problem with the ZRP. When the head of a police force openly declares allegiance to a political party, the police force is bound to lose effectiveness and trust.

This is the biggest problem for the ZRP. The ZRP may have conducted a genuine and thorough investigation and arrived at the conclusion that Christpower’s death was a result of an accident.

However, because of the suspected political nature of the death and Augustine Chihuri’s public political pronouncements about his allegiance to Zanu PF in the past, such findings are always bound to be greeted with scepticism.

Even the most rigorous forensic evidence supporting an accidental death becomes almost irrelevant.

In other words, as things stand, the ZRP suffers from a credibility crisis.

The sceptics that Chihuri has unwittingly created at home and beyond will always suspect a cover-up.

The problem that Chihuri has created because of his publicly-stated political leaning is that the outcomes of ZRP investigations into cases of political violence become almost predictable.

To many, the outcome of the probe into Christpower’s death was known before the investigations even started.

This is because of Chihuri’s political utterances and the police’s treatment of people associated with opponents of Zanu PF.

Given this state of affairs, and from a professional point of view, Chihuri’s position is simply untenable; it has been for a very long time.

It is not often that President Mugabe has publicly ordered Chihuri to investigate suspected political murders as has happened in this case.

Talent Mabika, Tichaona Chiminya and Tonderai Ndira, among others, died in horrific circumstances in the past without Mugabe ordering his police chief to investigate their deaths.

Worse still, a CIO agent suspected of the murders of Mabika and Chiminya remains scot-free.

What motivated Mugabe’s public intervention in the case of Christpower?

There could be many reasons.

One can only surmise that, one of them is that his fatherly instinct kicked in. Apparently, a picture of the boy’s charred remains was circulated in Cabinet last week.

The youthfulness of the victim has tugged many a heartstring, including Mugabe’s perhaps.

This was an innocent young boy who had his life ahead of him.

Perhaps Mugabe also recognises that this is his last chance to win an election with both domestic and universal approval, which also explains his increased calls for peace.

With the international attention that Christpower’s death has attracted, Mugabe would want to create the impression of the existence of the rule of law in Zimbabwe before the elections.

But Mugabe is unlikely to achieve the latter as long as Chihuri is the police chief. Public institutions and their leaders need to earn public trust.

How a head of a public institution declares allegiance to a particular political party and expect to be perceived as unbiased is beyond me.

Chihuri is no longer being perceived as a person who acts impartially — even when he does; even when his police force may have conducted genuine investigations into the death of Christpower. - Conrad Nyamutata

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