Army keeps eye on police

By Bridget Mananavire

The triumphant Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) is not rushing to withdraw all its forces from the streets even as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) assumes its full responsibilities in the wake of isolated acts of vengeance targeting allies of former president Robert Mugabe.

Young women walk past an armoured personnel carrier that stations by an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017.
Zimbabwe’s military appeared to be in control of the country on November 15 as generals denied staging a coup but used state television to vow to target “criminals” close to President Mugabe. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

In a joint statement issued yesterday, the two security arms of government disclosed that while the ZRP has now resumed its duties after being inactive for nearly two weeks, it will be shadowed by the military.

“We, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Security Services of Zimbabwe wish to inform the nation that the situation in our country has returned to normalcy following the historic inauguration of his excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, head of State and government and commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces, … Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa on November 24, 2017, which has set a new trajectory,” reads part of the statement.

“We wish therefore to advise the nation that the Zimbabwe Republic Police is now assuming its role as stipulated in the Constitution of Zimbabwe under section 219, which, among other things, mandate the Zimbabwe Republic Police to maintain law and order; protect and secure the lives and property of the people.”

The statement was issued on behalf of the ZRP and ZDF by the chief staff officer (press and public relations) to the commissioner-general of police, Charity Charamba, and army public relations director, Overson Mugwisi.

Law enforcement agents had completely disappeared from the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans since November 14 when the army took control of the levers of power through what it dubbed “Operation Restore Legitimacy”. 

The operation, according to the military, was aimed at “arresting criminals” around Mugabe.

This saw the army usurping the powers and functions of the police, and seizing control of strategic institutions such as Parliament; Munhumutapa Building; the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation; the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport; the ZRP Support Unit and the Zanu PF headquarters.

A number of Zanu PF officials perceived as close to Mugabe, among them former Finance minister Ignatius Chombo, youth secretary Kudzanai Chipanga and youth commissar Innocent Hamandishe were captured by the army, before being handed over to the police. They are currently appearing before the courts, facing various charges ranging from corruption, kidnapping and publishing or communicating falsehoods.

After days of intense political pressure on the deposed 93-year-old politician, Mugabe gave in by handing his resignation to Parliament on November 21, sparking wild scenes of celebrations among Zimbabweans who had endured 37 years of his misrule.

On November 24, Mnangagwa was sworn in as third president in independent Zimbabwe after Mugabe and Canaan Banana, although the latter was more of a ceremonial head of State.

As a result, the army has been pulling out gradually into the barracks, with tankers that had become a common feature at strategic institutions and roads nowhere to be seen since Saturday morning.

In their joint statement yesterday, it was revealed that the ZRP, which falls under the ambit of commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri will be policing jointly with the ZDF, without giving any indications as to when the military will completely remove its men and women off the streets.

This tends to suggest that the military is either not yet convinced that the law enforcement agents can do the job on their own or the ZDF is using the intervening period to build confidence with the ZRP.

The two forces have a history of bad relations stretching many years back.

More recently, there were ugly clashes between soldiers and the police whereby Harare became the battleground as soldiers, armed with sticks, attacked every uniformed police officer in sight in August this year.

So bad were the clashes that both units had to institute an investigation to understand the underlining causes and take corrective action.

In a tease joint statement issued in the aftermath of the clashes, the security forces categorically condemned the incident and assured the nation that a joint team had been set up to conduct comprehensive investigations into the matter “and appropriate action will be taken against the perpetrators”.

It was revealed yesterday that there have been reports of looting and illegal occupation of private properties, which the security forces said they are going to deal with decisively.

“You will soon notice the ZDF and ZRP members conducting joint patrols, especially in the Harare central business district. We urge you all progressive Zimbabweans to respect the country’s laws and cooperate with our officers as they perform their duties.

“As Zimbabwe Defence Forces and Security Services, we play complementary roles in the defence and maintenance of law and order in our beloved country,” the statement said.

They also echoed Mnangagwa’s call for peace, unity, self-discipline and observance of the country’s laws and by-laws, restating their commitment to serving the country.

“Law enforcement agents are already receiving reports of looting and illegal occupation of other people’s properties particularly farms and houses. This behaviour is criminal and against the spirit of non-vengeful retribution and will be met by the full wrath of law,” reads the statement in part.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police would want to assure the nation that it will strive to ensure that all its operations and programmes will be people-centred, in accordance with the vision … Mnangagwa.

“We would want to urge our nation to remain united and cooperate with security services as they discharge their duties,” they said.

On the eve of his inauguration, Mnangagwa implored Zimbabweans to remain patient and peaceful and desist from any form of vengeful retribution.

This followed incidents where houses belonging to some of Mugabe’s allies were vandalised.

“It is not in the spirit of Ubuntu/Unhu, which characterises the nature of our people. Let us not, therefore, allow criminal elements bent on destabilising the peace and tranquillity prevailing in our country, by either settling political or social scores outside the ambit of the law. We are all Zimbabweans and let us be exemplary as we work towards consolidation of our rarity and the prosperity of our nation,” Mnangagwa said in a statement.

“In this vein, I would implore our citizens to refrain from malicious practices and report any such incidences to the law enforcement agencies for their appropriate legal action.” Daily News