Zimbabwe: Police Corruption Committees in Limbo

THE anti-corruption committees set up by Zimb-abwe Republic Police (ZRP) Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri, are in limbo months after their introduction amid revelations that most members of the public might have be-come accomplices in crime.

Chihuri had been forced to set-up the anti-corruption committees early this year following incessant complaints that nearly all police officers were dabbling in corruption, demanding bribes from the public.

The worst affected police department was the traffic section in which officers were fingered in daily corruption.

In launching the anti-corruption committees, the police boss vowed that the initiative would go a long way in nipping corruption in the bud.

But police spokesperson, senior assistant commissioner Wayne Bvudzi-jena, acknowledged this week that the committees were being under-utilised.

"These committees are dependent on the reported cases. People are reporting but we believe there are many who are just letting it go and choosing to bribe the police," said Bvudzijena.

The police spokesperson said while there are some corrupt officers of the law, they had no place in the ZRP, urging members of the public to report any corrupt police officers by visiting the nearest police station or through the police hotlines, the officer in charge or officers commanding respective districts.

He warned those engaged in corrupt practices that they faced the full wrath of the law.

"Irrespective of duty station, whether traffic officers or not, all corrupt officers will be investigated and brought to book. But this is dependent on members of the public coming forward," Bvudzi-jena said.

"The corruption committees are here to stay. We are saying people should report corrupt practices. They should have faith in the system," said the senior cop, adding that the system could only be effective with the cooperation of the public.

Early this year, there were widespread calls from the public especially transport operators who decried police corruption and heavy handedness. Traffic police have been fingered as the most corrupt especially in their dealings with commuter ominibus drivers.

The decade long economic meltdown the country experienced saw people resorting to unusual means for survival. It is during this time that people from various backgrounds bought and sold almost anything.

When sugar was scarce, those who were connected and had easy access to the commodity connived with their friends or relatives to sell the commodity at exorbitant prices. The same goes for mealie meal, cooking oil and many other basic commodities.

Those in the police force were better off. They could use their uniform to jump the long queues for basic commodities or in the process of ensuring order at the sell points, got favours.

The favours extended to the transport sector. Members of the uniformed forces now board commuter omnibuses for free and do not stand in queues at the various termini. Not that the combi crews do not want them to pay! But it has become an unwritten rule that the police, soldiers and airforce officers do not pay for commuting. This has worsened the acrimony between the police and commuter omnibus cre-ws.

Earlier investigations by The Financial Gazette revealed that even within the ZRP ranks, officers pay bribes between US$10 and US$20 to get a new set of uniforms or a favourable posting to a duty station.

Several police details who spoke on condition of anonymity revealed that it was common knowledge within the force that "you grease the hands of those at ordinance" for uniforms requests to move swiftly.

A cross-border trader who also spoke to this newspaper alleged that the police were heavily involved in the smuggling of goods from Plumtree border post to Bulawayo. The trader said charges to smuggle goods from the border are around US$500 per trip adding that the culprits are usually reluctant to talk to new "customers" for fear of possible arrest.

Transparency Intern-ational's Corruption Perc-eptions Index for 2011 put the country at number 154 out of 183 countries and territories. Botswana came at number 32, Namibia 57 and Zambia 91.

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