ZRP should reform

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has a lot to learn from the recent professional conduct exhibited by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) on how to police responsibly.

While Zimbabweans across the political divide expect the ZRP as an institution to be efficient, effective and honest, over the years it has been doing exactly the opposite.

Until recently when the military stepped in and suspended its services, the ZRP’s corrupt practices had worsened and the organisation had lost people’s trust.

Zimbabwe Republic Police

The police force — once respected, responsible and credible — had become infamous across the country because of its unpopular policing tactics that included its use of spikes on the roads and extortion of motorists.

Over the years, Zimbabweans have complained bitterly at the police brutal handling of peaceful demonstrations by opposition parties and ordinary citizens protesting over their welfare.

ZRP has also been found wanting in previous elections because of lack of professionalism and bias towards Zanu PF as it thwarted or out rightly refused opposition parties permission to hold their own rallies.

On top of ordinary Zimbabweans’ complaints has been the ZRP’s poor reaction to crime.

While they could not timely respond to cases reported by ordinary citizens citing lack of manpower or transport, what angered people were that hundreds of their officers would be on the roads mounting check points at every corner, cars and bikes mounted by the roadsides.

And it had gone out of hand with the ZRP now fully focusing on roadblocks and check points, hence spot fines increasingly became a huge cash cow for the force amid revelations that they were collecting about $59 million annually as they worked with targets.

Apart from raising these millions for the force, corrupt traffic officers openly demanded bribes from motorists with the unfortunate ones losing their jobs after being trapped while on the act.

After persistent reports of graft in the force, in 2014 the ZRP transferred 33 traffic police officers from its Avondale Police Station in Harare to remote stations for alleged corruption.

According to a Zimbabwe Visitor Exit Survey (VES) Report for the year 2015/2016, police harassment was one of the main reasons why tourists would not recommend Zimbabwe to other potential visitors.

The survey polled 38 680 foreign tourists over a 12 months period between 2015 and November 2016, and found that police harassment constituted the highest percentage of the reasons not to recommend the country to potential tourists, at 43,2 percent, followed by harassment by Zimra officers at 14,7 percent.

Last year, a report by corruption watchdog Transparency International showed that an overwhelming majority of Zimbabwe’s businesses perceive the police as one of the country’s most corrupt government agent.

According to a recent report by the International Police Science Association and the Institute for Economics and Peace, ZRP is one of the world’s worst police forces and ranks 102 out of 127 countries surveyed.

It is my hope that the incoming government will not let politicians abuse the ZRP as was with former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko who reportedly ordered the release of detained acting chief executive officer Engineer Moses Juma and non-executive director Davison Norupiri who had been arrested by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) on allegations of defrauding the parastatal of US$1,3 million.

Mphoko also caused a storm after he reportedly stormed into Bulawayo Central Police Station, and expressed anger over the arrest of several Zanu PF activists in connection with the intra-party violence that occurred at the party’s provincial offices at Davis Hall.