Mapostori on the run: Fear grips police station was the bold headline of The Standard last week.
A large landscape picture depicting one Madzibaba Ishmael Mufani’s troops beating up a hapless policeman on the ground completed our front page that probably told more than a story of the violence with a thousand words.
In a normal society, one would have expected people to express revulsion at the dastardly actions of the shadowy Apostolic sect who took the law into their own hands and meted instant justice as the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe sought to ban their church.
But feedback sent to the editor showed that while readers did not condone the attack on journalists,there was no sympathy for the police whose crowd control techniques were seriously exposed by the rag-tag team of bearded mapostori.
There was consensus that the sect, which is accused of violating women and children’s rights, among many other unacceptable things in this 21st century, had done a good job when they assaulted the police at their shrine in Budiriro 2.
On social networks, people went into overdrive as all kinds of puff pieces praising the sect emerged.
For many, it turned out to be a week for rejoicing the sect’s exploits. But surely, how could that be the case in a society that largely shuns organised violence, I wondered.
Upon reflecting on the numerous comments that landed on my desk, I then realised it’s not just the kombi drivers that hate the police: there is a very strong anti-police sentiment in Zimbabwe which, if left unchecked, could lead to worse things happening to the police one day.
Thirty-four years after independence, Zimbabweans hate with a passion the men and women donning the grey and blue uniform who are supposed to enforce law and order in the country. At the top of their hatred appears to be Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri whom they view as a Zanu PF apparatchik.
By openly declaring his allegiance to Zanu PF, the Police Commissioner General is seen as partisan and his association with the party does little to inspire confidence in the millions of Zimbabweans who want to see an impartial police force.
Chihuri did not help matters when he collapsed right in front of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, President Robert Mugabe recently and offered a cock-and-bull story about “The right shoe was mixed up with the left one. The right shoe is a bit small and it is an old shoe so my toes were burning because of the tightness of the shoe and there was no circulation [of blood] in that leg that caused me to be dizzy and then fell down.”
Hear, hear, oh hear. When a head of a police force can’t figure out how to wear his shoes properly, is it surprising that everything that can possibly go wrong in the ZRP has gone haywire?
Under Chihuri’s watch, corruption and indiscipline have grown to gigantic proportions.Police brutality is the order of the day, with officers not showing any restraint when beating up and unjustly detaining critics of Zanu PF.
Remember the injuries they inflicted on former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and NCA’s Lovemore Madhuku when they held a prayer meeting in Highfield in 2007. Remember the murder of Batanai Hadzidzi (may his soul rest in peace), a University of Zimbabwe student on the night of April 8 2001 when police sought to put down a demonstration at the campus.
There are uncountable incidences where police forcefully broke up peaceful protests by students, the labour movement, political parties and even by members of Women of Zimbabwe Arise dishing out flowers on Valentine’s Day.
Such brutality, which has restricted the democratic sphere in Zimbabwe, coupled with corruption, has not endeared the force with the public. It has bred deep antagonism and anger among the general populace to an extent that when the apostolic sect bludgeoned police in Budiriro, cheers rang out in many places.
The Budiriro incident is a wake-up call for the police. It can’t be business as usual for police anymore. The nation is angry and wants to see a step change in the way police conduct their business.
And can the stuttering Chihuri accomplish this task after presiding over the demise of the ZRP over the past years? I doubt it.
Clearly, it’s time for the police chief to retire and to leave this important and challenging task to a new Commissioner General who can weed out corrupt and unprofessional characters in the force.
Such action could be the catalyst for transforming the ZRP into a law abiding organisation that can be respected by the nation.