via Police can’t police itself Zimbabwe Independent Editorial October 18, 2013
The state media has acknowledged that Police Commissioner Oliver Chibage has been involved in corrupt activities with internal disciplinary measures having been taken against him and other officers. Some of the cases were before the courts.
While it is welcome that the police are acting in matters of corruption, especially where it concerns their own members, we are not impressed with the language national police spokesperson Charity Charamba has used to quell speculation surrounding the cases.
“The involvement of Commissioner Chibage,” she told a press conference in Harare, “is a matter which falls in the purview of police discipline which has already been handled under the Police Act and the matter has been finalised.
“As such we take note of the interest of others who might be within the organisation and in particular the private media who went into overdrive baying for the blood of Chibage.”
The action taken by the police was commensurate with the involvement of the said officers, Charamba said.
“The organisation has no policy of over-killing a matter in pandering to the whims of the hard-hearted who would want to see a mountain falling and burying Chibage.”
Much of this is inappropriate. The private media, just like any other media, has a duty to speak out on matters of corruption. Was the curbing of this menace not the cornerstone of the president’s election campaign? The press has a watchdog role to play in informing the public of corrupt behaviour, especially where it involves law enforcement officers. And it is up to the press to decide whether any such matter can be “finalised” by a declaration of intent.
Charamba appears to think we have been “pandering to the whims of the hard-hearted” who want Chibage brought down. Does she not recall the fate of MDC supporters who were incarcerated for over a year in appalling conditions on charges that were later dropped?
The police have a public duty to protect innocent people who they might not like on political grounds but should defend and assist where necessary. Talking about mountains falling on officers who have been charged with an offence is not just inappropriate, it is daft. The police are in danger of losing public respect with statements of this sort. Charamba complains that the Chibage issue has been handled under the Police Act and “the matter has been finalised”.
We should point out that a number of matters have been dealt with ostensibly under the Police Act and that is not to say those matters have been necessarily “finalised”. Nor is it possible to tell if they were commensurate with the Police Act. Without an independent internal police investigations agency it is very difficult to claim a matter has been settled. That is why many forces have such units because the police cannot be allowed to investigate themselves. It is to be hoped that with the new constitution law enforcement will be more independent and professional. That is not the case at present.