EDITORIAL: We Urgently Need Humane, Safe, And Democratic Policing In Zimbabwe

THE EDITOR; The Zimbabwe Sphere

It goes without saying that the existence of police in any country must guarantee safety in communities; that policing must serve and protect the citizens so that they feel safe, with peace of mind, in their communities, in the country at large. The reality on the ground when it comes to our police – the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) – reflects a diametrically different state of affairs.

Policing in Zimbabwe must not be violent but should be humane, safe, and democratic
File Photo. Munashe Chokodza/263Chat

The police in Zimbabwe operate in ways that negate this fundamental aspect of serving and protecting the people. The public’s perception towards the ZRP is largely negative. There is a pervasive feeling of fear when one is in the presence of police officers. For some, the police – from those with top positions to the officers on the ground – come off as a conglomeration of corrupt and incorrigible people who are more concerned with lining their pockets and pleasing the powers that be, rather than doing their duties in a fair, impartial manner reflecting public interest.

There is a pervasive deficit of trust between the public and the police, the former who feel that the latter are perennially averse towards upholding fundamental and inalienable rights and freedoms of the people.

This is not to say each and every member of the ‘police force’ exudes aberrant behaviour. However, the way that the majority of the officers on the ground and in higher offices leaves much to be desired. There is scant regard for fundamental human rights and freedoms when the police discharge their duties; doing so in a heavy-handed manner mostly marred by insufferable bureaucracy. The daily raids in the CBD bear testimony to this.

Stories of corruption dominate news cycles, and this does not inspire confidence in the populace. When it comes to the political sphere, instructions from higher offices mean that many officers act in a partisan manner, and this is deleterious to the interests of genuine democracy — the freedoms of expression, assembly, and conscience must be upheld in a sacrosanct fashion.

We now have reports of police officers carrying out inhumane, degrading, and dehumanizing raids on those suspected to be drug offenders — mostly those subjected to such ill treatment are mere users/in possession of small amounts of illicit substances. The police have approached the drug crisis with their classic brutality, and this does little to alleviate this societal problems. Drug ‘bases’ are subjected to the same brutality, where law enforcement members unleash torrents of beatings to people who are engaging in voluntary transactions. Yet, there are no reports of arrests pertaining the drug lords who are trafficking these substances into the country.

In all facets, it seems the police have much to do if they are to improve their public outlook. Our communities feel unsafe during night hours because of opportunists on the prowl, who take advantage of the dearth of active community policing. In a political economy which outsources critical public services to the private sector, the police are woefully funded so that they can effectively discharge their duties in a manner that inspires safety and confidence in communities.

Where private security guards assume the role of [mainly protecting private property and its owners] safety guarantors, police is removed from the picture. Yet, our police must actively watch and safeguard our communities at all times, doing day and night patrols to create safe and humane communities. This requires abandoning capitalist notions towards public service provision. At the same time, police must discharge their duties without fear or favour; they must carry out their people-centred duties in a non-partisan manner.

This cannot be changed overnight. Obviously. But creating conversations around the need for safe, humane, and democratic policing is a good starting point. The public must feel that the police exist to serve and protect, not to harass, intimidate, and injure people.

Policing now needs to be detached from Eurocentric, colonial-driven, class-based, and racialized approaches — it is now time to usher in a refreshing, new model of policing that speaks to local needs, rooted in local contexts. Policing in Zimbabwe needs to be democratic, with a key focus on ensuring unrivalled safety in the country’s communities, whether rural or urban. With this, we may start the arduous march towards having a healthy and secure nation.

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