The rotten apples metaphor has often times been misapplied to safeguard institutional inefficiency and corruption.
Our police force has become masters in applying this allegory. There is always an attempt to make the nation believe that there are a few crooked cops -- the rotten apples -- who abuse their rank and office thereby bringing the whole police force into disrepute. What police commanders do not seem to realise is that the rot is spreading to all apples.
Trying to separate the good apples from the bad ones is an exercise in futility because they now all smell the same. There is no better illustration of this metaphor than recent reports of wanton police corruption and the commanders' response to the scourge. Last week police chiefs transferred 33 traffic police officers from Avondale Police Station in Harare, accused of soliciting bribes.
Our sister paper NewsDay recently reported that two officers had been arrested after they solicited bribes of more than US$2 000 along the Harare-Masvingo Road.
The paper also reported the death of a traffic policeman who allegedly committed suicide after a sting operation caught him with money he could not account for. These are the perceived bad apples, but extracting them from the barrel is not really the solution to the massive corruption in the force.
These cases must serve as an invitation for government to act on the grand corruption. It is time for radical moves and not tinkering on the fringes. The police have for some time now been collecting fines from motorists and retaining the money instead of remitting it to treasury. The nation has never been told how much is collected and how the money is used. This is poor governance writ large.
Then there are thousands of police officers who own public transport vehicles in contravention of an order by police Commissioner-General that this is illegal.
This calls for government to order a commission of inquiry into the administration of the police and initiate a lifestyle audit of policemen, most of whom live well beyond their police wages.
The corruption in the force can only be dealt with through a culture change in the force and this must start from the top. Perhaps this is the time for them to tell us why the whole barrel of apples should not be discarded.