Underpaid and under-resourced Zimbabwe police in distress

Police officers keep watch over supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition party of Nelson Chamisa as they march on the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe, August 1, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
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THE officer commanding police in Harare yesterday appealed to Zimbabwe Republic Police commanders to provide transport and accommodation to junior officers who are facing eviction from their rented accommodation and missing work because their salaries can no longer meet their needs.

In a leaked radio addressed to commanders, seen by NewsDay, titled “Welfare of Members,” the police boss noted that junior officers were earning poor salaries which could no longer meet their needs and that many of them were facing eviction for failure to pay rentals.

Police officers earn an average of $3 000 per month and will this month be getting a COVID-19 allowance of US$75 in their nostro accounts plus an extra $1 500 at a time the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions says the breadbasket is now hovering around $20 000 and subject to change every week following the introduction of the foreign currency auction system.

Officers, who spoke to NewsDay on condition they were not named, said they were facing challenges reporting for duty, while some of their peers were actually collapsing at work due to hunger.

“Presentations have been made to bosses that the situation is now dire, members are struggling with paying rentals, which are being indexed to US dollars. Most police officers face eviction and are failing to buy food and meet basic expenses while we watch our bosses drive top-of-the-range vehicles, stay in plush houses and get benefits that include fuel, airtime and accommodation,” the police officer said yesterday.

Police were also angry that while they were at the forefront of suppressing opposing voices and protecting the ruling elite, they remained poor and neglected.

“They promised us garrison shops, they even said they would get us cheaper mealie-meal and sugar, but none of that is happening, yet it’s us with batons and tear smoke protecting the ruling elite,” another officer said.

In February, government promised to set up subsidised shops in cantonment areas to cushion restive members of the uniformed forces from the rising cost of living, but is yet to fulfil that pledge.

In the communication to commanders, the police boss wrote: “Addressees are being encouraged to continue addressing welfare issues of members under their command, especially during the prevailing phase of unstable economic environment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Commanders, therefore, should have keen interest and the zeal to assist members where possible.”

Commanders were being urged to ensure that they provide accommodation and transport to officers under their command as many struggled to get to work and face eviction for failure to pay rentals.

“The provision of transport and accommodation on transfers and those staying away from stations, among other pertinent issues, as provided for in the standing orders and regulations, should be prioritised. Impartiality and empathy must be exercised when addressing issues to do with the welfare of subordinates,” the communication read.

On June 21, 1 111 police officers successfully challenged transfers by Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga saying they were incapacitated and could not fund relocation.

Justice Benjamin Chikowero granted them relief pending determination of the transfer matter.

Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said while he could not comment on the issues without getting first-hand information, he was aware that Matanga had appeared before a parliamentary portfolio committee and presented the challenges faced by his officers.

“I am not aware of the issues that you raise, but I know that the Commissioner-General appeared before the relevant parliamentary portfolio committee and told them what is needed in the police service. I will need to access the radio and verify it before I comment on other issues,” he said.

Nyathi also requested the leaked radio so that he could verify its authenticity to which he later responded: “The police signal availed to the media is, in fact, a confidential document in terms of the Official Secrets Act. It was internally intended for police commanders as a reminder to do their work as articulated in Police Regulations and Standing Orders. Remember, the CommissionerGeneral of Police recently appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Security, where he articulated the challenges faced by the Zimbabwe Republic Police in policing. The government has made it clear that it is currently addressing issues to do with members’ conditions of service.”

Last week, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri also revealed before Parliament that morale was low in military barracks, with hungry soldiers, particularly those manning border posts in the wake of COVID-19, now tempted to engage in corrupt activities to sustain themselves.

Source – newsday