The way the Zimbabwe Republic Police has handled the criminal activities of the group has exposed tensions in the senior ranks, with the public relations department reeling in confusion, issuing conflicting statements and this week being transferred en masse.
Sources within the force said the spokespersons had made several statements which were bound to expose the ties between Chipangano and ZRP, and the transfers were a retributive reaction as a result of the embarrassment caused.
Zanu (PF) has consistently denied any ties to the terror group, which has been kidnapping and beating up people perceived to be critical of Zanu (PF), extorting money from commuter operators and flea market vendors, stealing goods from vendors, disrupting meetings – even inside Parliament – all with absolute impunity. It is widely believed that the Godfathers of the group are Jim Kunaka, Tendai Savanhu and Amos Midzi – all senior Harare provincial executives in Zanu (PF).
The party’s secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, recently wrote to Midzi saying: “Cde Midzi, if you tell me that you know nothing about this group (Chipangano) that is terrorising people in Harare it would be a lie. I will not believe that.”
Sources said the statements by the police spokespersons exposed the divisions among Zanu (PF) leaders over how to deal with the shadowy group.
The transfers came a few days after the officers made comments to the press following a joint blitz by the Zimbabwe National Army, ZRP and Harare City Council on commuter operators.
The crackdown was targeted at rank marshals, most of them known members of Chipangano, who had attacked kombi drivers and operators and beaten up two soldiers who had attempted to stop the harassment.
Police arrested four soldiers when they staged a revenge attack on the youths. The next day soldiers, angered at the arrests, accused the police of siding with Chipangano.
A senior police officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the issue of Chipangano was highly sensitive and political and needed to be handled with caution.
“The problem is that the statements made by the spokespersons ruffled the feathers of some senior officers who felt they were politically incorrect,” he said, adding that some senior police officers had joined Zanu (PF) factions, which were divided over what action to take against the group.
“Sabau made a reckless statement when he said the police were going to convene a meeting with the Mandimbandimba (rank marshals), transport operators and council officials to resolve the issue. How can the police convene a meeting with criminals? Surely that was a reckless statement which put the police in bad light,” he said.
Bvudzijena allegedly denied any knowledge of the skirmishes caused by Chipangano at the Harare Central Police station bus terminus. Phiri referred all questions to Oliver Mandipaka, saying he was no longer a police spokesperson. Sabau did not answer his mobile phone while Bvudzijena and Mandipaka could not be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, human rights lawyers have mounted a constitutional challenge against the ZRP’s practise of outsourcing torture to Chipangano. Last month, police arrested two MDC youths Petros Makaza and Golden Nhika accusing them of stealing a soldier’s beret and mobile phone after a beer hall brawl in Epworth and surrendered them to a Zanu (PF) office in Mbare, where they were severely tortured until they lost consciousness.
Disgusted by the blatant selective application of the law, human rights lawyer Tawanda Zhuwarara of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights last week filed an application for referral of the matter to the Supreme Court, arguing that the extensive torture at the hands of members of Chipangano occurred with the acquiescence of the police who transported Makaza and Nhika from Epworth to Mbare, where they surrendered them to members of the group.Post published in: News