Police must redeem themselves

HARARE - The incoming Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Phillip Valerio Sibanda announced on Monday that the military was pulling out of the streets after nearly a month during which they virtually took over the functions of the police.

In making the announcement, he made an interesting point that they expected the police “to fully take over their responsibilities and perform according to their constitutional mandate and Client Service Charter”.

That statement is loaded.

The police have a lot of soul searching to do after the military intervention exposed the public’s deep-seated hatred and anger towards them. Their image has been tainted by their acts of commission or omission and the confidence that citizens used to have in them has been shattered.

It is not a good sign seeing police officers being beaten by soldiers in the streets of Harare like what happened in August with members of the public getting ecstatic about it instead of sympathising with the victims.

And for a whole police commissioner general to be booed and jeered when he stepped into the giant National Sports Stadium last month for President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration, it tells you that something has really gone terribly wrong in terms of how the police relates with the public.

Radicals had even suggested that it was far much better to have the country under military rule than allow an intrusive police to resume their duties.

But even as the police resume their normal duties, it would be unwise for them to continue on the same path as before.

It is incumbent upon them to work harder to heal the rift that now exists between the police and the very people they are supposed to be protecting.

Earning that trust and confidence will not happen overnight — the police must work towards achieving them if they want to remain relevant. This entails renouncing corruption in word and in deed, shunning brutality, doing away with unnecessary and frustrating roadblocks and not being partisan in their policing.

As much as the police have their work cut out, the public must also make it easy for them to do their work by being law-abiding and repudiating indiscipline, which is rampant in our society.

While we applaud the military for doing the right thing by returning to their barracks, we can only hope that they will stick to their constitutional duties as well and leave the civilian authority to manage the country’s affairs without “stepping in” like we saw last month.