9 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Police Defy President Mugabe

CORRUPT police officers continue their vice despite calls by President Robert Mugabe to deal with the scourge and efforts by Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri to contain the rot in the police force.

Delivering a speech to ZANU-PF delegates at the party's annual national conference last month, President Mugabe singled out members of the police force's traffic section who have become unpopular for demanding bribes from moto-rists.

Graft within the force has not been confined to the traffic section alone but cuts across all sections, with some senior officers said to be demanding part of the loot from their subordinates operating on the ground.

The development comes against the background of surveys undertaken by graft watchdogs that have branded the police the most corrupt of all officials dealing with the public.

Following last month's criticism by the ZANU-PF leader, observers have noted that there have been no let up by law enforcement agents on the matter.

This week, Simbarashe Ngarande, president of the Urban Commuter Operators of Zimbabwe, said his association's members continued losing money to corrupt police officers.

"They are continuing to put drivers in a corner because they know that kombis have ready cash.

"There is a lot of corruption and spot fines must be scrapped if this is to be stopped," said Ngarande.

He said when police impound a commuter vehicle they threaten to take it to Harare Central Stores where one is required to pay US$132, with an option for one to be spared upon the payment of a US$50 bribe.

Alarmed at the rate of corruption, police bosses this week announced that a lifestyle audit for all police officers would be undertaken as part of measures to curb the scourge.

Last year, police also unveiled anti-corruption committees, but the move failed to extinguish the problem.

On Monday, Farai Matunduru, a researcher at the local chapter of graft watchdog, Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ), said police must engage independent and neutral experts to do the lifestyle audit for purposes of eliminating the element of bias.

An assessment carried out by TIZ last year on corruption in the mining sector revealed that police where engaged in graft at sites that they were entrusted to guard.

TIZ gave the example of the Sherwood block in Kwekwe, an area rich in gold deposits, where police there were allowing illegal panners onto the fields to prospect and share proceeds afterwards.

The anti-corruption crusader said this was mainly being done by junior officers, but there was a chain in terms of benefits with senior officers receiving a share of the illicit gains.

"Even after arresting prostitutes, police demand bribes," said Matunduru.

Despite the consummation of a new look Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the body has largely remained a toothless bulldog like its predecessors, with mostly small fish being sacrificed.

President Mugabe recently revealed that former South African president Thabo Mbeki had told him that some ministers had demanded bribes from the neighbouring country's investors although no one has been nabbed.

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