ZRP practice, human rights contradict

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) revealed recently that it has had “human rights” as part of its syllabus since 1995.

One would have been forgiven for bursting out in laughter because it is just difficult to reconcile ZRP practice with observance of human rights for the past 18 years.

Revelations about this “syllabus” were made around the same time three police officers were arrested for attending an MDC rally.

The off-duty policemen apparently attracted the charge of bringing the name of the ZRP into disrepute.

Fine, if the rules of the force repudiate such practice — that police officers, whether on duty or not, should not attend political gatherings.

But then such rules ought to apply to everyone. Augustine Chihuri, the police commissioner-general, among other security chiefs, attended a Zanu PF congress in Gweru last year.
Did he bring the name of the ZRP into disrepute? Apparently not.

Let us be clear, if these three cops had attended a Zanu PF rally, the men would be with their families and walking the streets, free right now.

Their offence was not necessarily attending an MDC rally but the “wrong” rally.

The main charge against the ZRP is its selective application of the law, in this case against its own powerless juniors.

On the whole, you wonder what the ZRP human rights syllabus consists of.

Does it contain proscription against torture, one wonders?

But then suspects brought before the courts report, frequently, to magistrates — cases of falanga — beatings on the soles of feet inflicted by the police.

Members of the MDC have been subjected to torture during detentions.

Does this syllabus recognise freedom of assembly as a right?

The ZRP has routinely prevented the MDC from holding rallies on frivolous grounds.

Freedom of assembly, it seems, is a right that only Zanu PF enjoys, untrammelled.

Does the syllabus embody the right to freedom of expression? You will recall that theatre performances, for example “No Voice, No Choice” have been blocked, exhibitions about Gukurahundi banned and even an event to commemorate Joshua Nkomo, stopped.

And does this syllabus comprise the right to freedom of choice? On November 26, 2010, Chihuri said: “…this country came through blood and the barrel of the gun and it will never be re-colonised through the pen which costs as little as five cents.”

Stripped off all the implausible, nay nonsensical rhetoric about re-colonisation, what Chihuri said was that he does not recognise the will of the people if such will did not retain Zanu PF.

I could go on. You then wonder whether this ZRP human rights syllabus contains human rights as we all understand them.

Given the scant instances cited above, it is clear that human rights do not form a genuine part of the ZRP’s policing and normative architecture.

Where the ZRP has political interests, human rights do not matter.

That is why the argument about the ZRP’s “professional” performance on UN or regional missions fail.

One such passionate defence was proffered recently by Bishop Trevor Manhanga, arguing against security sector reforms.

Such argument does not succeed.

Of course, the ZRP will probably conduct itself professionally in Kosovo or Somalia for the simple reason that it does not have any declared political interests in those countries.

Those that deploy them, in desperate need of manpower, are probably cognisant of this obvious fact.
Had Chihuri declared his support for Al Shabaab, and attended its “conference”, the ZRP would probably have no involvement in Somalia.

It is here, back home where the ZRP and its hierarchy have traditionally demonstrated allegiance to, and served the interests of, a political party.

Its head has openly declared his political interests.

It is only in Zimbabwe where a police chief can overtly pronounce support for a political party and threaten to disregard the collective choices of the people, and get away with it.
So the suggestions that human rights are a facet of ZRP training are wholly facetious given the contradictions between ZRP practice and what such rights dictate.

The ZRP should not have “human rights” as a token inclusion to its training manuals but act in the letter and spirit of those rights. - Conrad Nyamutata

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