Matanga, Matibiri battle for top cop job

There is fierce jockeying between Police Deputy Commissioners Godwin Matanga and Innocent Matibiri for the top job in the police force amid reports Commissioner Augustine Chihuri's term will not be renewed.

But the power to remove the Commissioner from office belongs to the President alone, and he may do so “for any reason” – though he must consult the Cabinet.

The jockeying for the commissioner's post comes amid fresh reports that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has declared that Chihuri, a self-professed ardent Zanu (PF) supporter, must go.

President Robert Mugabe promoted him to Commissioner-General and extended his tenure by four years in 2008. His current term expires next year.

Matibiri, Mugabe’s nephew, who has the distinction of being one of the only two senior police officers to get to the top without serving at the rank of senior assistant commissioner, was girding his loins to take over, but sources say Tsvangirai is not interested in his candidacy.

The same goes for Matanga, who is a known Zanu (PF) loyalist and allegedly has a drinking problem, according to sources in the police force. He has been involved in numerous accidents with police vehicles, allegedly under the influence of alcohol. The most recent involved his official Toyota Fortuner.

In all these accidents, no investigations took place as the authorities covered them up and quickly replaced the damaged official vehicles.

In January 2007 Matanga was demoted from the key operations portfolio to head the administration division and replaced by Matibiri.

Chihuri, whose 18-year tenure at the helm has been chequered by allegations of political bias and complicity in human rights abuses, continues to back Zanu (PF) openly – in breach of the police injunction.

Sources within the force this week warned of discord if the transition was not "handled properly".

The internal dispute, they said, would pit a new generation of police officers without liberation war credentials against the old guard.

"It’s a very delicate matter that needs careful handling," said a police source.

The top echelons have become deeply involved in Zanu (PF) politics – they are preoccupied with it, penetrated by it and now participate individually and collectively in it.

This politicisation has contributed to the decline in the rule of law and the harassment of senior officers reluctant to rally behind Mugabe.

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