THE duty of police in any democracy is to protect people and ensure public safety at all times.
Reports that police say they are finding it difficult to balance between respecting human rights and enforcing lockdown measures made for sad reading. It appears that now, under the guise of enforcing COVID-19 lockdown regulations, police are infringing people’s rights at will.
No, COVID-19 should not be a passport for the police, the army or anyone to harass people.
Pro Lege, Pro Patria, Pro Populo, goes the Zimbabwe Republic Police leitmotif meaning “for law, for country and for the people”.
That remains a deeply profound statement of undertaking on the part of the police and that should not be suspended for anything, COVID-19 included.
COVID-19 is real and has ravaged the globe and is exponentially spreading in the country, our very own communities and stricter enforcement is needed.
It should not mean beating up people, harassing innocent civilians trying to make an honest living. The police and their army counterparts are substituting maintaining law and order with thuggery and savagery.
Calling for police to enforce the lockdown without harassing people can never be a tough call. There is absolutely no need for arbitrary arrests, terror tactics and the inhumane treatment of the people.
The police say nearly 112 000 people had been arrested for violating COVID-19 lockdown measures which came into force on March 30. A big number indeed but we are not told of those people’s safety, particularly for those who passed through police cells.
Police blame the attitudes of civilians for their actions but forget that they, the police, must first act responsibly and that their use of force is mostly unwarranted.
If they just maintain the rule of law, abide by basic tenets of policing, the people will have no problem following their directions.
They must also bear in mind that people have a lot on their minds. With rampant unemployment, most of them are in the informal sector and they have to balance survival and the COVID-19 risk.
Under the circumstances, they are bound to look for a way to survive. They have gone through a lot of trauma and misery caused by poverty and hunger. The police should not be adding to their burden.
We appreciate that the police are also working under tough conditions, but if police show professionalism, they can stop the harassment of the people and in a civil manner, alert them to the dangers of COVID-19. There should be a better way to tell the people how they can protect themselves from COVID-19 than beating them up.
It costs nothing to be professional and not subject civilians to inhumane treatment like what we saw in cities such as Harare and Bulawayo where police ordered people out of city centres and forced them to walk several kilometres home because of transport shortages.