OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: A letter from the diaspora

There was a report last week of the police taking bribes at road blocks. An enterprising journalist had made it her business to travel by Commuter bus noting the number of road blocks and the number of times the conductor had to get out to satisfy police officers demanding bribes.

In particular, along the Epworth route in and out of the city of Harare where police are alleged to earn as much as $1000 a day in bribes. When tackled about this, a senior police officer admitted that police personnel do sometimes accept bribes but, he maintained, the public were as much to blame as the police! It was not general practice just a minority of cops – a few rotten apples.

Whether it is indeed just a few rotten apples or the whole barrel, it hardly inspires one with confidence in the integrity of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Up and down the country they have demonstrated over the last decade how hopelessly partial they are in the handling of cases of political violence. Zimbabweans know very well where police loyalty lies – wasnt it the Commissioner himself who stated that he would never salute Morgan Tsvangirai? So it came as no surprise to read a report in Mondays Herald claiming that police records show that the MDC is the major perpetrator of political violence. The MDC is topping the national violence record, says the Herald, despite the partys claim that its supporters are on the receiving end of political violence in the country. Commenting on the Herald report, an independent newspaper headlined it as A shameful lie. Not only shameful but also just plain stupid; the gaols are full of MDC activists and supporters and the hospitals treat MDC victims of violence while Zanu PF perpetrators are free to continue their criminal activities. Long gone are the days when people expected to get even-handed justice from the police in Zimbabwe. So low is our expectation of professional behaviour from the police that many citizens no longer even bother taking their complaints of violence to the police, knowing that in all probability they as the victims will be arrested. As for the police records that the Herald referred to, if they do indeed exist they prove nothing since the officer on duty is free to attribute blame wherever he wishes. It is not likely he or she will deviate from the party line when their jobs are at risk.When a senior police officer such as Superintendent Phiri warns the MDC T. of trying to destabilise the country through acts of political violence it is pretty certain that the ordinary cop on duty will allocate the blame to the MDC even though all the evidence points the other way.

We hear that Security Sector reform is on the agenda of the South African facilitators next meeting. While that meeting is in doubt, the Politburo has warned President Zuma that he will not be allowed to interview the Security chiefs. The heads of the army, police, prisons and intelligence service will not be permitted to talk to the South African Facilitation team. President Zuma had wanted assurances from them that they would not interfere in the election process as they did in 2008. Zanu PF itself appears to be split on the issue of election dates. After the weekly Politburo meeting we were told that the party wants elections in 2011 despite the Minister of Justice earlier saying he thought 2013 would be a more suitable time for the country to go to the polls. The charge that the MDC is responsible for all the violence in the country is just part of the electoral strategy of the former ruling party: to divert attention from Zanu PFs violent ways and use the MDC as the scapegoat. Will SADC, President Zuma and the rest of Africa be convinced by such faulty reasoning? The fact that Zuma is trying to convince Europe to drop sanctions seems to suggest he is only too willing to believe what Mugabe tells him. Zanu PF announces that the Anti-Sanctions Petition has been signed by 2.2 million people. And how many of those signatures were freely given? Soldiers, prison officers even prisoners and the police, not to mention school children and college students forced out of their lectures at Great Zimbabwe University by a certain Major General to attend his Anti-Sanctions rally? In spite of Lindiwe Zulus comment week that Zim elections must be totally different from 2008, it is hard to see that happening without the total reform of the ZRP.

Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson author of the Dube books available at Lulu.com

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