We're sorry: Police

HARARE - The under-fire Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has pledged to mend its ways in the wake of sharp criticism over its excesses, which could have influenced Executive’s decision to retire long-serving police chief, Augustine Chihuri.

Chihuri’s 24-year-long reign as commissioner-general came to a crashing halt this week when President Emmerson Mnangagwa sent him on leave pending retirement amid thunderous calls for his head from a cross-section of Zimbabweans.

His deputy, Godwin Matanga, replaced him albeit in an acting capacity.

Public confidence in the law enforcement agency has hit its lowest ebb owing to pervasive corruption in the force, partisan policing, and extravagant roadblocks that have become avenues to extort motorists.

The ZRP has also been accused of heavy-handedness in dealing with dissent and being at the beck and call of Zanu PF in suppressing opposing voices.

Motorists have lately been crying foul over the use of spikes, which saw several people dying after being caught up in movie-style chases between automobilists and the police.

Within a week of Chihuri’s exit, the ZRP admitted to its misdeeds yesterday, pledging to uphold its constitutional mandate and guaranteeing the safety and security of both citizens and visitors alike.

“Quite pointedly, there are circumstances that put the ZRP in an unfavourable position,” acknowledged Matanga in his address to officers commanding police provinces, chief staff officers and directors in Harare yesterday.

“As we acknowledge whatever mistakes or misdeed could have occurred in the past, we need to seriously focus into the future and work hard to rebuild the organisation’s image and a peaceful and crime-free Zimbabwe”.

Matanga, who spoke glowingly about the architects of the just-ended Operation Restore Legacy and its chief beneficiary, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, said the new dispensation should see the rebirth of the ZRP.

“This is an opportunity of redeeming the ZRP to its well-known reputation of being the eye of the nation (ziso repovo),” he said.

“There is a well-known Shona saying that says kugona chivi kuzvituka (you learn from your mistakes). May I therefore urge all of us to self-introspect, accept that our challenges emanate from lack of or inadequate supervision and unbecoming actions by some of our members, which have no doubt eroded public trust, faith and confidence in the police service,” added Matanga.

Matanga spoke a few days after incoming Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander Phillip Valerio Sibanda announced the end of Operation Restore Legacy – a military exercise that played a big part in influencing the resignation of long-ruling president Robert Mugabe.

In the same announcement, the army which had also assumed the functions of the police during the month-long intervention, said the law enforcement agency should assume its constitutional duties in full and abide by its client service charter whose vision is to “be the leading police service provider in the world by 2020”.

In its mission statement, the ZRP pledges to “maintain law and order, protect and secure the lives and property of the people and to institute dynamic policing practices that engender effective prevention, investigation and detection of crime”.

Notwithstanding, few agree the ZRP has been up to the task.

Not even the Home Affairs minister Obert Mpofu is prepared to give the force a clean bill of health.

Mpofu revealed recently that he has been inundated with complaints about the behaviour of ZRP officers, warning ominously that he would not let it lying low.

“This is a people’s police force and it has to abide by the expectations of the people, at the same time maintaining law and order,” Mpofu said.

“We don’t want to compromise our mandate, but we have to do it in a manner that will not destabilise or create discomfort for our people. I am going to address the issue of roadblocks, corruption and all issues people and even some officers have been complaining about.”

Yesterday, Matanga was forthright in his assessment of the force’s conduct, just coming short of saying ‘we are sorry’.

He acknowledged that the concerns of members of the public were now public knowledge, saying most of them arose from the management of traffic enforcements.

“Complaints are double –pronged. Firstly, they serve as a feedback from the users of our service and secondly they are an indicator of matters to be addressed in our planning and implementation strategies.

“That the ZRP, like most modern police organisations derive their legitimacy from the people is beyond doubt. As an organisation, we long accepted this viewpoint and committed ourselves to continuous learning under public scrutiny. Indeed, our code of conduct, the Police Client Service Charter and all our policies emphasise the need for professionalism in the discharge of our policing mandate at all times.

“To this end, we are obligated to take heed of matters that are of concern to the public as they have a right to point our mistakes. And at times, do not expect them to use restrained language in doing so. Where need be, our on-going desire should be to use the complaints as a yardstick of reforming and re-engineering our services.

“A heavy sense of responsibility, discipline, professionalism and dedication to duty should be the moral and legal guiding principles at all times,” said Matanga.

He promised stringent measures to rid the police of corruption, saying the whole objective of Operation Restore Legacy was ridding society of the scourge.

To complement that effort, he said the police will speed up investigations of all cases brought to its attention to build confidence in the new dispensation.

“In this regard, the ZRP shall enhance swift justice to perpetrators of corruption and other criminal acts through undertaking thorough and quality investigations,” Matanga said.

Ha said the force will also put more effort to combating crime where safety of citizens and visitors as well as their property remains a priority.

“Our presence on the streets in urban areas, in the remote rural areas, at the borders, in the farming communities or wherever, should inspire confidence among communities. Our thrust should forever be aimed at fostering and consolidating police and community relations. As police commanders, you should never insulate yourselves from the people,” he said.

“Our presence especially in crime-prone areas should be highly visible. We need to rid all corners of Zimbabwe of the fear of crime or the establishment. Consequently, I beseech all officers commanding police provinces to ensure that we have firm deployments that respond to crime trends round the clock.

“Visible supervision by all commanders ought to be heightened. This becomes even more compelling as we approach the festive season which normally attracts crime and road traffic accidents. There are a number of occasions where our members have been found wanting or caught on the wrong side of the law. Discipline is the cornerstone of all police work. Regular training coupled with enhanced supervision will ensure our members abide with our disciplinary code,” added Matanga.