Chihuri must be stopped

In the space of just two weeks, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) did two very silly things that may affect us all for the coming two decades. First, they arrested two journalists from the private media for reporting on the death of a three-year-old boy who was run over by a commuter omnibus as the driver fled bribe-hunting and street-loafing police officers. Secondly, they banned a May 3 World Press Freedom Day march organised by Zacras and the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ), under extremely

Chihuri
Chihuri

In the first instance, the police displayed clear vindictiveness against the Newsday journalists, editor Nevanji Madanhire and Moses Matenga, a promising and fearless young reporter. Their crime, it is abundantly clear, is that their story blamed the police.

The headline and mourners’ utterances squarely put the blame on Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri. I am convinced that this is why the police took Madanhire and Matenga in for long hours of interrogation. It is either Chihuri was hitting back at the journalists for reporting that people were blaming him, or some overzealous Law and Order officers wanted to placate their boss, possibly for a promotion or a lucrative foreign assignment in South Sudan.

I know what Chihuri is capable of doing when journalists report in a way he does not like because I am a victim of his ire. Just to wind back, on September 9 2002, in the maiden edition of the now defunct Daily Mirror where I was Chief Reporter, we ran a front page story headlined “Chihuri must go” that I wrote. That was after talking to some senior police officers who claimed Chihuri was ill and was becoming increasingly unpopular with his subordinates.

Three days later, Crispen Makedenge—then an Inspector with the Homicide section—who had apparently been tracing my movements, arrested me at Corner House along Samora Machel, right on the doorstep of the British Embassy. While my arrest received widespread attention, there is one thing the world has not known up to date.

Makedenge, during interrogation that lasted into the morning of the following day, confided in me that Chihuri was waiting at the Senior Officers Mess at Morris Depot to be briefed on what I would have said. Unfortunately for him, I refused to give a comment in the absence of a lawyer. Then, not a single person outside the police knew what had happened to me, and the then head of Law and Order, Charles Mufandaedza, constantly reminded me about that. That is how personal Chihuri can become with journalists.

Madanhire and Matenga’s arrests for criminal defamation have nothing to do with reporting in an illegal manner. It is all about settling personal scores by invoking an archaic and unconstitutional law.

I was not surprised when the police banned the Zacras-MAZ march that had been approved earlier. It seems Chihuri and his lieutenants still wanted to make a statement against journalists, to demonstrate who holds the real power in Zimbabwe. So, the ban has nothing to do with the lame reason given that the police were overwhelmed by other events of national importance. What national events were taking place on Saturday May 3?

It is high time Information Minister Jonathan Moyo gave Kembo Mohadi, the Home Affairs Minister, and Chihuri some honest talking to. He must also rein in Tourism and Finance Ministers Walter Mzembi and Patrick Chinamasa. Zimbabwe does not need the bad publicity that the police seem so keen to work up. As it stands, we are limping under bad laws and policies, particularly the policy on indigenisation that has scared away crucial investors. That is why the economy is suffering. That is why people are hungry.

Chihuri, especially, needs to be told in no uncertain terms that Zimbabwe is much larger than his ego. We are tired of the pariah tag that we have been reeling under for so long. If the police are allowed to continue on their crazy rail like that, we are doomed. They need to be stopped.

We have had so much of their highway bribery and extortion cartels that have severely injured our image and we don’t need their Machiavellian antics anymore. The recent arrests and march ban might look like isolated incidents, but they are capable of yoking us for a very long time. – To comment on this article, please contact [email protected]

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