Police, army rift emerges

Source: Police, army rift emerges – DailyNews Live

Bridget Mananavire     5 August 2017

HARARE – Clashes that erupted in Harare’s central business district
between soldiers and members of the police force on Tuesday seem to
suggest that relations between the two peace-keeping organs are getting
strained in spite of the official denials, the Daily News can report.

Harare became a battle ground for the uniformed forces as army officers –
armed with sjamboks and sticks – indiscriminately attacked every uniformed
police officer in sight.

Initial reports were that the soldiers were retaliating over an incident
that had occurred earlier on whereby a vehicle belonging to one of them
got damaged by a spike thrown at it by a traffic police officer.

Yet another school of thought says the clashes were a result of pirate
taxi wars between soldiers who own the four-wheelers and traffic police
officers who are unnecessarily penalising their drivers for various
offences.

But peace and security experts warned yesterday that the developments were
worrying as they appeared to be carefully planned and executed.

This comes as legislators on Wednesday grilled Defence minister Sydney
Sekeramayi in the National Assembly over the incident, saying it raised
question over security and peace in the country.

Highfield legislator Erick Murai said citizens no longer felt safe as they
were not sure anymore whether the armed forces’ duty was still to maintain
peace and security in the nation.

“We are no longer sure whether we are safe or not. What measures have you
taken in place to address the misunderstandings between the two groups to
guarantee our security?” asked Murai.

Sekeramayi, who had no immediate response, said he would address the
matter after getting reports from the police and the army on what had
transpired.

“I will have a response pertaining to that issue and also the measures
that are being taken to ensure that there is no violence or
misunderstandings amongst the security forces,” he said.

Yesterday, the police and the army broke their silence over the
skirmishes, saying they have set up an investigation into the violent
clashes.

In a terse statement issued jointly by Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) and
the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) yesterday, the uniformed forces warned
that those found on the wrong side of the law would be punished.

“The security forces regret the unfortunate incident that took place on
August 1, 2017 in the Harare central business district,” police
spokesperson, Charity Charamba, said at a press briefing in Harare
yesterday.

“We want to categorically condemn that incident and assure the nation that
a joint team has been set up to conduct comprehensive investigations into
the matter and appropriate action will be taken against the perpetrators.
We also want to reaffirm that, as security forces, we are fully united
despite this incident,” she added.

Charamba was flanked by ZDF spokesperson, colonel Overson Mugwisi, Police
Harare province, senior assistant commissioner, Elias Mvere and colonel
David Nyasha from the Harare provincial Joint Operations Command.

The ZDF and ZRP officials refused to take questions from the floor.

Peace and security analysts said yesterday the developments were worrying
as they appeared to be carefully planned and orchestrated.

Josphat Munetsi, a doctorate researcher and security expert, said for
members of the army to just attack and assault every police officer on
sight can never be a spontaneous occurrence but a careful execution of an
order.

“This is because if the soldiers were to take the law into their hands
without a `lawful order’ from their superiors, they subject themselves to
very serious sanctions,” Munetsi said.

“Therefore, to assume that those soldiers were merely mutinous is to fail
to analyse the undertones implicit in this debacle. One can only
extrapolate that the public fighting between members of the army and the
police demonstrates a serious discord within national security framework
of the country,” he added.

Munetsi said their respective roles as part of the coercive apparatus of
the State can only be conflated if they are mired in the political
bickering of the day.

“With that in mind, fighting could be a settling of the scores between the
army superiors and the police occasioned by the politics of the day. Other
than that, any fissures could have been settled outside the public domain.
This is why it is always mandatory that both the police and army remain
independent from the politics,” said Munetsi.

Analyst Maxwell Saugweme said the clashes were linked to the infighting in
Zanu PF where rival camps are trying to position their proxies to succeed
President Robert Mugabe.

“These two groups are armed and their tension may escalate into outright
war that will leave the ordinary citizen to bear the brunt of this. We are
on the edge as a nation and we should be very worried,” Saungweme said.

“I think there have been many clashes such as this before, especially in
places such as Gweru where military cadets are trained. This particular
one stinks and raises more dust given the capture of police and military
by rival Zanu PF factions…

“Aside from that it shows how lawless Zimbabwe is. You have rogue police
who throw spikes on moving vehicles and unhinged soldiers who go about
beating up policemen. There can never be lawlessness like this where law
enforcement agents and the security services are law breakers,” he added.

But human Rights Watch Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said the
clash was just a “storm in a tea cup” and that there was no need to worry.

He said it was a minor criminal incident that has been blown out of
proportion because of the incorrect links that are being made between the
clash and the on-going factional fights in Zanu PF and the hot race to
succeed Mugabe.

Mavhinga said clashes between the army and the police were not new, and
happen from time to time.

“The cases of indiscipline or criminality related to the clash should be
handled in accordance with military regulations and the police’s mandate
to maintain law and order,” he said.

“There is no need for worry or panic among Zimbabweans on account of the
clash alone. What Zimbabweans should worry about is the unconstitutional
interference of security forces in political issues, especially in matters
relating to factionalism in Zanu PF and in deciding who takes over from
Mugabe.

“Security forces must be professional and non-partisan, as directed by the
Constitution. When security forces stray into civilian and political
affairs then that is a cause for major concern for Zimbabweans as it
raises the risk of chaos and violence.

People should resist the temptation of unnecessary media hype! Zimbabwe is
definitely not on the brink because a few soldiers sjamboked some members
of the police! If guns are involved and no disciplinary action is taken
immediately then there is reason to worry.”

The main opposition party, the MDC, said the situation was a sign that the
Zanu PF “regime” was on a knife edge.

The party’s spokesperson, Obert Gutu, alleged there are deep-rooted
contradictions and suspicions within the various arms of government,
largely due to debilitating factionalism, regionalism and tribalism.

“As the Italian politician, Antonio Gramsci, once said, these are morbid
symptoms of an old order that is refusing to die and as such, the new
cannot be born,” said Gutu.

The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) denounced the violence adding that
such behaviour was unacceptable.

PDP called on the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to act on
the country’s failure to deal with rising tension in Zimbabwe.

He said Tuesday’s happenings, if not dealt with will result in further
violence even involving members of the public.

“The Zanu PF government for some weird reason has decided against
establishing an independent complaints mechanism against members of the
uniformed forces as provided in section 210 of the Constitution,” said PDP
spokesperson Jacob Mafume.