When we read in the newspaper that policemen have been charged under the Police Act for attending a political meeting we can be pleased that the Zimbabwe Republic Police are finally obeying the law that governs them. However, we have to ask whether this new found zeal for obeying the Act will now be applied in an even-handed manner? This should happen forthwith as the Police Act is unequivocal about policemen being involved in politics.
Look at what the Police Act says in Paragraph 48(1) of the Schedule to the Police Act:
48. (1) Actively participating in politics.
(2) Without derogation from the generality of subparagraph (1), a Regular Force member shall be deemed to be actively participating in politics if he—
(a) joins or associates himself with an organization or movement of a political character; or
(b) canvasses any person in support of, or otherwise actively assists, an organization or movement of a political character; or
(c) displays or wears rosettes, favours, clothing, symbols, posters, placards or like articles having a political significance; or
(d) attends a political meeting or assembly when wearing the uniform of the Police Force or any part of such uniform likely to identify him as a Regular Force member:
Provided that the provisions of this subparagraph shall not apply to a
Regular Force member who attends such meeting or assembly in uniform in the
course of his duties; or
(e) asks questions from the floor at a political meeting; or
( f ) publishes views of a political character or causes them to be published in speeches, broadcasts, letters to the press, articles, leaflets, posters, placards, books or otherwise; or
(g) does any other act whereby the public or any member thereof might reasonably be induced to identify him with an organization or movement of any political character.
So it is not okay for the Commissioner-General to publicly associate himself with ZANU PF, and he should be charged. It is not okay for Assistant Commissioner, Oliver Mandipaka, to announce whilst still a serving officer that he will stand as a candidate for ZANU PF in the next elections, and he should be charged. And all officers and ranks in the ZRP that wear any insignia of a political party should be charged, but then we might no longer have a police force left. This is clearly not a trivial problem, but, in fairness, many members of the ZRP might be ignorant of Section 48 of the Police Act, as presumably were the three benighted police officers that attended a MDC-T meeting. Probably they thought they could do so since all their colleagues were taking their lead from the Commissioner-General and declaring their party affiliations.
So this very thorny question of Security Sector Re-Alignment that SADC keeps banging on about is probably not as complicated as we all think, at least as far as the Zimbabwe Republic Police is concerned.
There is very clear legislation under which the ZRP must operate. No member of the ZRP shall be a member of a political party, and all the Commissioner-General needs to do is set the tone.
Firstly, he could publicly apologise for being ignorant of the Act, and publicly resign his relationship with ZANU PF if he intends to continue in his post. Or he could resign if his allegiance to ZANU PF is more important than his job.
Secondly, if he decides to stay and has done the decent thing, apologized, and resigned from ZANU PF, he could make a public statement indicating that he will be making it clear to the members of his force that they shall all resign from any political party. Even more than this, he will make it plain to the members of the ZRP that they should act so impartially that no member of the public might reasonably be induced to identify him with an organization or movement of any political character.
It might be that at one aspect of Security Sector Re-Alignment could happen very easily, but, even more important than this, the ZRP could return to the position that they had in 1999 when the Helen Susman Foundation survey showed that the public had confidence in their police.