A police force gone to the dogs

“When I joined the ZRP in 1994, wearing that uniform alone was a great honour,” said Ian Ndlovu during a recent interview with The Zimbabwean.

Blessing Vava - the image of the ZRP has already been tainted
Blessing Vava – the image of the ZRP has already been tainted

“Among the strong gate-keeping measures put in place back then was a thorough investigation into a candidate’s background, with strong emphasis on their criminal record, their health and behaviour among fellow community members.

“The recruitment criteria were also very strict on entry qualifications, not compromising on five Ordinary Level subjects, including Maths, Science and an English pass, no past convictions or pending court cases and 1.68m in height,” he remembers.

Eighteen years later, Ndlovu feels embarrassed when people refer to him as a former cop, five years after he quit the job.

“The ZRP’s image is now tattered and whenever people hear that you are a former member, they begin to suspect that you could be one of those who spent their period of service chasing after political activists, or those brainlessly beating up striking workers. That pains me,” he said.

He and several former police officers told The Zimbabwean that after elevating war veterans to influential ranks following the 1999 formation of the MDC, Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri and Zanu (PF) always complained that members of the junior ranks were working against their efforts.

“Junior officers were always accused of working against the country’s ‘sovereignty’ and could easily be turned against the government,” said a former Superintendent.

The first step, he said, was to turn the Police Internal Security Intelligence against members viewed to be sympathetic to the MDC and any other opposition party.

“PISI moved from crime-fighting to spying for Chihuri and each time a public outreach meeting was held, PISI details were deployed to take notes on what was said. This was to prevent even senior officers from spreading anti-Zanu (PF) messages – no-one was to be trusted.”

The result was the victimization of several officers – who were transferred to the most remote stations, or unfair dismissal on allegations that they were actively involved in politics.

“This created a lot of problems for the force because in some cases, where no evidence could be obtained, it was invented. There were many incidents in which hard-working members had MDC regalia and party cards planted in their offices and houses just to get them out of the way because they would have refused to toe the Zanu (PF) line or been unenthusiastic in the face of calls to attack the MDC.

“Chihuri also created what he called the Commissioner’s Pool, in which senior officers, especially Superintendents and above, were victimized,” he said.

The former officers likened the pool to a Guantanamo of psychological torment for non-conformists. An officer banished to the pool was allegedly stripped of all benefits, such as his official vehicle, and subjected to the embarrassment of being forced to report to a Constable in an empty office, where they would spend the whole day doing nothing under the watchful eye of the Constable.

“Such an officer would need to report to the Constable that they are going out for lunch, the shops or toilet. This was meant to frustrate the senior members into quitting and most did so.”

Quick examples are former Harare Province police chief, Senior Assistant Commissioner Emmanuel Chimwanda, who quit in 2001 and Assistant Commissioner Martin Simbi, who followed him two years later and Assistant Commissioner Solomon Ncube. The trio refused to “swim” in that pool, after they had continued to arrest Zanu (PF) supporters for political violence.

With most officers frustrated out and others re-indoctrinated for a month at the Buchwa Mine compound, Chihuri had to deal with the junior ranks.

The mindset of Inspectors and above having been quickly turned around, the first way implemented to deal with the non-commissioned officers was the introduction of the rank to of the rank of Sergeant Major to ostensibly deal with issues of discipline in 2005.

“This rank had no particular other purpose than to threaten and torture junior officers into line for acting in a professional manner. With that also not enough, the junior ranks were further diluted with the induction of graduates from the National Youth Service Training camps, who were already attached to the ZRP as part of Operation Dzikisai Mitengo,” added the former Superintendent.

This brought the ZRP to its knees and completed the Zanu (PF) stranglehold. Most of the “Green Bombers” were under-qualified and that eroded the policing standards.

“An uneducated person is dangerous and his or her understanding is next to none,” said a former Sergeant who was frustrated into quitting in 2006.

“During our time, one could not join without the five O’ Levels, but an under-qualified person plucked off the streets will always be grateful for the rest of their life, taking every instruction that comes their way without question. Green Bombers have been indoctrinated to the gospel that Zanu (PF) is the only party fit to rule the country till Jesus’ second coming. They have been poisoned to push the Zanu (PF) agenda. Policemen must be apolitical, unlike most Green Bombers, who already have their political side to follow.”

Political commentator Blessing Vava said the dilution was a direct ploy to turn the whole force into a Zanu (PF) wing, especially ahead of elections.

“The police will be used to terrorize Zimbabweans and those opposing Zanu (PF) will face the consequences and we will see many arrests being meted, especially to MDC activists,” said Vava.

“After this disorder, there is great need to take a thorough human resource audit in not only the police force, but many other sectors of the state, mainly the army and the Central Intelligence Organization to make sure they operate in a professional manner to serve the people of Zimbabwe and not the interests of a certain political party.”

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