A news item regarding some dam being constructed in Buhera South was being run when Oliver Mandipaka appeared, commenting on the project. He was captioned as “National Police Spokesperson”.
I couldn’t immediately understand what a police spokesperson was doing at the site of a dam project. Had someone drowned (or been crushed to death) before the dam was completed? Was the sub-aqua unit going to use the completed dam for its practice sessions? Or was the police force going to use the dam for a fishery project, in the same way it is using our roads to fish money out of hapless motorists?
None of the above, of course, when you remember, like I did after some time, that Oliver Mandipaka, according to my contacts in Buhera South, intends to run as a candidate in the next parliamentary elections in the same constituency where the dam is being built.
This is the only sensible reason why Mandipaka would appear on television extolling the virtues of a project in his home area. He is already on the campaign trail, on a Zanu (PF) ticket.
I hold no brief against any Zimbabwean citizen seeking political office, especially when that is done in the spirit of representing the interests of one’s own people. The constitution is clear: we all have the right to freedom of association.
However, where Mandipaka is concerned, I get extremely disturbed, for a number of reasons. To start with, this Chief Superintendent is still on the ZRP payroll and that in itself disqualifies him from overtly engaging in politics.
The last time I checked, the Police Act prohibited serving members of the police from participating in active politics. Now that Mandipaka is doing exactly what the Act he is supposed to honour and defend prohibits, I wait with keen interest to see what will happen to him.
To tell the truth, some action should have been taken against him by now, considering that he declared his intention to run as a Zanu (PF) candidate long ago, directly or indirectly. He should have been hauled before a disciplinary board and fired from the force for blatantly disregarding the law.
I also wait to see if, come election time, he is going to tender his Form 71—his application for resignation.
Obviously, Mandipaka is riding on the back of the ZRP to win himself a seat in his home area. He has been seen on television and has appeared in the papers as a police spokesperson. That provides him with the all-important platform any aspiring politician seeks.
Second, Mandipaka’s interest in running in Buhera South begs questions about his involvement in the politics of that constituency in the past. That area ranks among the most politically volatile constituencies during elections since 2000.
There are countless reports of those daring to oppose Zanu (PF) being tortured, maimed and murdered during the 2000, 2002, 2005 and 2008 parliamentary and presidential elections. Some of the victims have claimed that no action was ever taken against the perpetrators of violence.
This is where Mandipaka should shoulder the burden. In all those years, he was a senior police officer. At least he should have done something to ensure that all culprits were arrested. But that has not happened. He has not come out in the open to condemn the clearly criminal acts of members of the party he now wants to represent in Parliament.
In my eyes, and, I am sure, in the eyes of many other people, Mandipaka is surrendering himself as an accessory to all the criminal activities of a political nature that have taken place in his home area.
Third, if violence breaks out in the area, as has happened in the past, how is he going to handle the situation?
Even if he were to officially resign from the police, his participation in politics has a negative psychological effect. His opponents who accuse the police of being partisan would always live in fear that they could be arrested for any or no reason.
On the other hand, his supporters – who could have been let off the hook in the past – would feel emboldened and go on to terrorise their opponents with a sense of impunity. The psychological ramifications extend to the police in Buhera.
Knowing full well that Mandipaka is an erstwhile boss and one of them, they would censor themselves from taking action against his Zanu (PF) supporters. Further, there is no guarantee that Mandipaka’s opponents will not pack the police cells like sardines come election time.
The bottom line is that, whatever his calculations, Mandipaka has more stakes to deal with than he reckoned when he decided to enter politics. Surprising that he has taken that route? Maybe not. Remember that his boss, Augustine Chihuri, is an avowed member of Zanu (PF), and so are many other senior ZRP officers.
I wonder, though, what would have happened to Mandipaka if he had decided to contest on a MDC ticket?
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