Zimbabwean police lament abuse by ruling party officials

JUNIOR police officers have complained to their superiors about Zanu PF officials who are interfering with their duties as the country prepares for the August 23 harmonised elections.

NewsDay is reliably informed that low-ranking police officers petitioned their commanders saying they were failing to discharge their duties because of undue influence.

An audio recording of Environment and Tourism deputy minister Barbra Rwodzi verbally assaulting a police officer who had opened a docket against a Zanu PF member who defaced Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) campaign posters recently went viral on social media.

In a recorded phone call, Rwodzi who is also the Zanu PF Chirumanzi South legislator threatened to report the police officer dealing with the matter to Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga and President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The incident sparked outrage within the rank and file of the police who felt undermined.

Police officers are said to have asked Matanga to take action against Rwodzi, to “restore police dignity”.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police bosses were seized with the matter.

“Matanga is aware of such complaints and we have taken note of the alleged voice recording between Rwodzi and the police officer,” Nyathi said.

“We have since launched an investigation into the matter.

“The commissioner has already released a statement to say investigations into the matter have been launched, thus the matter is being dealt with.”

Zanu PF party spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa was not picking calls yesterday when attempts were made to get his comment on the matter.

The ruling party’s political commissar Mike Bimha said Zanu PF had not sanctioned intimidation of police officers.

“Individuals threatening police offices are not representatives of Zanu PF  in the acts,” Bimha said.

“An individual is not Zanu PF. Go and ask those accused of threatening the police, they can answer for themselves because they are independent of the party.

“Otherwise, we are busy campaigning.”

In a memo dated July 16, 2023 addressed to police officer commanding Midlands province Patson Nyabadza, officer commanding Gweru rural district  Tambudzai Gumbo said the victimisation had made police work “difficult”.

“On July 15, 2023 at around 2207 hours, number 041853R Insp Murima received a phone call from Honourable Babra Rwodzi… who is the deputy minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism questioning why the accused person was summoned to appear in court,” Gumbo wrote.

“‘When she was told that the accused person was facing the allegations of removing and destroying posters for another political party, she vented her anger on the junior officer telling him that police was doing nothing to protect members from the ruling party, Zanu PF.

“She told the junior officer that the case was not supposed to be referred to court, instead, the junior officer as the officer-in-charge was supposed to handle the matter at the station.

The memo says Rwodzi accused police officers of being CCC members simply because they had opened a docket against her party supporter.

It adds: “Honourable Babra Rwodzi also questioned why police was allowing the opposition party CCC to display party posters in Chirumanzu South constituency.

“Efforts to explain that police had no mandate to stop the opposition party from displaying their posters fell on deaf ears.

“Honourable Babra Rwodzi accused police officers at ZRP Charandura of being members of CCC party and promised to take the matter up with the Commissioner-General CDE GT Matanga and his Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe CDE DR ED Mnangagwa.

“It is now difficult for police officers to execute their duties as required in section 219 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe with threats of victimisation when executing their duties.”

The opposition has been calling for security sector reforms for years as it complains about Zanu PF-State conflation.

Some Zanu PF officials have been steadfast in blocking security sector reforms saying the move was meant to facilitate regime change.

Police’s professionalism has come under sharp focus in the run-up to the August 23 elections after it barred CCC from holding a number of campaign rallies.

CCC leader Nelson Chamisa was forced to cancel the launch of the party’s election campaign a fortnight ago after police in Bindura refused to sanction the event saying the proposed venue had no access road and toilets.