EDITOR’S COMMENT: A small but significant step

Among the functions of the Police are to prevent crime, protect property from malicious damage, protect lives and livestock, detect crime, apprehend offenders and suppress civil disturbance in any part of Zimbabwe.A whole section of the Constitution of Zimbabwe (219:1) is dedicated to the Police to provide for that.
This, of course, can only be achieved through a community policing service delivery model which delivers effective and efficient services through a collaborative partnership with the citizens of the country.

Therefore, the ZRP simply cannot go it alone. Looking closely at how the police work, it becomes obvious that their ears are always on the ground, listening to what the public have to say; talk of leads, tips, concerns, you name it.

There is no police force that delivers when it works in isolation.
It is with this in mind that we would like to dedicate this space to applauding the Zimbabwe Republic Police for responding to the public’s concerns over the numerous road blocks that are dotted across the country. Never mind that as of yesterday evening there were road blocks even in Harare’s CBD. We trust that this was for a specific operational purpose and that as this week unfolds we will not have to contend with a road block every other five minutes of driving.

So kudos to Commissioner-General of Police Dr Augustine Chihuri and the men and women in his ranks. If every Government department and public office responded to public concerns so frankly – we can forgive the ZRP for taking a while to react, though – then service delivery in Zimbabwe would be at another level.

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When the public – who are the stakeholders and stockholders of the nation State called Zimbabwe – raise concern, we expect prompt responses. With the public having registered concern over the number of road blocks they have to contend with every day, the Police have committed to rationalising.

What this also means is that this is a “eureka” moment when the public realises that its opinions really do matter. However, as Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba rightly points out, the public should not view road blocks in essence as a nuisance because they do serve an important purpose in our security.

A lot of criminals have been nabbed at road blocks and even the very presence of these road blocks serves as a deterrent to would be criminals. It is thus incumbent upon all citizens to co-operate with police officers.
That said, the Police should stop at rationalising the number of road blocks. There is another urgent issue they should deal with, and that is corruption on the roads.

While stories have been told of how police officers are required to declare the amount of money they have on their person before and after being deployed to road blocks, the public have been crying foul over the levels of graft exhibited by some elements in the ZRP.

Stories are told of how “fines” magically reduce from US$20 to US$5 when a motorist pleads lack of money, and no receipts are issued.

We will not waste ink and paper stating in whose pockets these negotiated “fines” land.
Graft has to be addressed as soon as yesterday because while those corrupt officers on the roads might now be taking it casually, the same public they connive with in those underhand dealings is losing faith in them.

A relationship without trust is as good as dead and we cannot afford to have a dead relationship between the police and the people they serve.

The question that screams out is: how can corrupt police officers fight graft in the wider public?
The police have to practice what they preach; they can only castigate corruption without sounding hypocritical if their own hands are clean.

In equal measure, the issue of spot fines has to be dealt with once and for all. It has been prickly for far too long. Considering that we are in the midst of advocating for plastic money use, the ZRP also has to join in and do the same. The assumption that every motorist always gets on the road prepared to pay a spot fine is absurd to say the least.
When a motorist is found on the wrong side of the law, it is only logical to give them time to pay later – or even contest the fine in a court of law – or be able use plastic money.

There is a long way to go, but it seems we are on the right track.

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