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I can arrest you - The Zimbabwe Republic Police and your rights
July 15, 2012
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in of Zimbabwe's coalition government on February 11, 2009
took place five months after the signing of the power-sharing agreement
and almost a year after the flawed and violence-ridden
2008 elections. In his inauguration speech, the new Prime Minister,
Morgan Tsvangirai, said that the "culture of entitlement and
impunity . . . must end."
Two years later,
in their report of March 2011, titled: "Perpetual Fear -
Impunity and Cycles of Violence in Zimbabwe", Human Rights
Watch (HRW) wrote that human rights abuses and restoration of the
Rule of Law, politically motivated violence and the lack of accountability
for abuses remained a serious problem.
HRW warned that
members of the security forces, ZANU-PF and groups allied to ZANU-PF
continued to commit human rights violations, including arbitrary
arrests and abductions, beatings, torture and killings of members
and supporters of the former opposition party, the Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC), and those critical of the ZANU-PF and its
Today in Zimbabwe,
more than three years into the shaky and widely discredited power-sharing
arrangement, arrests are escalating, corruption is rampant, human
rights violations are rising once more and the Rule of Law has not
been restored. All indicators are there to alert Zimbabweans, the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the international
community that an increasingly desperate and unpopular ZANU-PF is
gearing up for the next election.
focuses on the risk of arrest at the hands of the partisan Zimbabwe
Republic Police (ZRP) under the command of Commissioner-General
Augustine Chihuri, who has publicly acknowledged his allegiance
to ZANU-PF. Chihuri has served as police head since 1993 and his
contract has been renewed by President Mugabe 13 times since 1997.
Chihuri is a member of Joint Operations Command (JOC), the junta
which continues to control Zimbabwe.
In a country
where the Rule of Law is no longer operational and the security
forces operate with impunity, every citizen is vulnerable. A chance
remark in a taxi, at a pub or even at a funeral could lead to arrest
and possible incarceration in one of the country's disgracefully
maintained jails. Those who stand up for their rights and join demonstrations
or canvass for political parties other than ZANU-PF face possible
arrest, severe beatings and torture in custody.
corruption have become rampant. In a survey
published by Transparency
International in 2011, Zimbabwe ranked 154 out of 182 countries
in terms of its level of corruption. The ZRP topped the list as
the most corrupt institution and stood out as the biggest recipient
of bribes among service providers.
of roadblocks across Zimbabwe's appallingly maintained road
network has lead to growing frustration among road users due to
the inevitable delays and the demands for bribes from increasingly
brazen police officers. Although one of the most important roles
of a roadblock should be to reduce the number of vehicle accidents,
their contribution is seen as questionable - and rather as
a money-making racket both for the police force per se and also
for individual self-enrichment.
surrounding the roadblocks extends beyond bribery and corruption
to their more sinister roles during elections: their use as a mechanism
for blocking food aid to opposition strongholds, for stopping people
injured in election violence from seeking medical help and to prevent
opposition officials and activists from canvassing or holding rallies.
After explaining the legitimate roles of roadblocks, the report
gives advice to citizens on their legal rights and provides recommendations
on how to deal with police harassment and implicit or overt requests
In a section
describing corruption within the ZRP as "endemic", the
report provides examples in a range that includes plundering stolen
properties, collusion with bag snatchers, extorting bribes from
taxi drivers, demanding bribes at roadblocks, protection rackets,
perverting the ends of justice, setting up diamond syndicates and
murdering illegal or unlicenced miners for financial gain.
also criticised police investigations of cases where vital information
given to the police by State witnesses has been omitted from formal
witness statements produced in court in favour of the defence. Furthermore,
ZANU-PF members who have murdered MDC supporters have been freed
on bail and remain at liberty.
of good policing is the absence of crime. It must be subject to
the Rule of Law, rather than the wishes of a powerful leader or
party. It can intervene in the life of citizens only under limited
and carefully controlled circumstances - and it is publicly accountable.
The report explains
the differences between civil policing and political policing. It
also defines secret policing, where an authoritarian regime uses
the police as an agent of political oppression. Citizens within
a police state experience restrictions on their mobility, and on
their freedom to express or communicate political or other views
- which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement.
The police force
of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), was created by
Chapter IX of the (Independence) Constitution of 1979, signed at
the Lancaster House Conference. It is governed by the Constitution
of Zimbabwe - which has been amended 19 times over the past
33 years - and by the Police Act. The current head of the
ZRP, Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, has served as police
head since 1993 and has had his contract renewed by President Mugabe
13 times since 1997.
The ZRP is bound
by many international human rights standards. It is also a member
of SARPCCO, a regional professional association which is committed
to disseminating best practices and raising the standard of policing,
including the respect for human rights.
Not only is
the ZRP guilty of perpetrating gross human rights, with many of
the victims being opposition activists and supporters, but it is
also guilty of abusing its own members. Zimbabweans and the international
community were shocked in June 2009 when a secretly filmed two-minute
video on You-Tube showed ZRP recruits being beaten while undergoing
'training' in Harare. Each recruit was forced to lie
down and was then beaten by 'trainers' with batons,
some more viciously than others, a process reportedly referred to
as 'pay day'. The
concept of "The Rule of Law", and the differences between
"The Rule of Law" and "Rule by Law" are explained,
with reference to the Constitution - and to people's
rights according to the Constitution.
warns the ZRP that it faces millions of US dollars worth of law
suits from political activists and human rights defenders who are
claiming compensation for torture, wrongful arrest or abduction.
Furthermore, a South
African High Court ruled on May 8, 2012 that the South African
authorities must investigate Zimbabwean officials who are accused
of involvement in torture and crimes against humanity in Zimbabwe.
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