By Tariro Senderayi
I remember growing up at primary school, I looked at law enforcement officers with such high esteem. Their starched uniforms from the top of their cap right to the toe of their polished boots, upright posture and demeanour had me craving to get in line and correct whatever was in disarray no matter how little. Most of the men and women then were the epitome of social order and protection. Surely how could one not want to conform when you had an intimidatingly tall, military built, serious faced policeman giving you that reprimanding glare? However, this picture that had been deeply etched in my memory is slowly fading in the face of this office being misused and abused by the law enforcement officers themselves as well as those who wield the power to pull the purse strings in society.
Nowadays, the presence of a police officer no longer brings with it feelings of respect and the compulsion to behave. Instead those feelings have been replaced by those of disdain, frustration and off course sheer embarrassment by the manner in which most of them hold their office. There is an increased social debate in Zimbabwe pertaining to what purpose they serve in society.
Firstly, I would like to highlight that the purpose of police roadblocks around Zimbabwe is to ensure that road carnage is minimal and that road users are law abiding citizens. However, a new breed of roadblocks has emerged whereby they seem to have the sole aim of frustrating and delaying road users. These delays, thanks to money exchanging hands, have left the populace disgruntled and asking so many questions as to the necessity of numerous roadblocks in the city. Not only are you going to be late for work but sometimes when a kombi is pulled over, your heart slams so hard in your chest for fear that the police will just tell you to get off right there and then as the kombi has been “cuffed”. Moreover, these unnecessary roadblocks have led to accidents being on the high as motor vehicles that are not roadworthy attempt to evade the greedy hands of these uniformed officers with haste. Thus, the manner in which they are carrying out they duties defeats the purpose of the roadblocks in the first instance.
Secondly, the surest way to monitor that the police are carrying out their duties is in the reduction or absence of crime. Unfortunately, times are dire with crime having reached alarming levels. One begins to wonder that as the police chase the ever-evasive dollar, whom do they leave in charge of the criminal backyard?
The policing system is letting the people down on a daily basis and no one is even flinching. What we expected from them we no longer expect nor hold our breath in the hope that something will have to give. In the meantime, they waft about in their pompous gait and luxurious vehicles that are a product of their swindling ways.
The rule of law has been tossed aside in favour of ‘rule by law’.
The rule of law is a legal principle that suggests that laws are made to govern the nation and every individual including the law makers themselves is subject to the law. There are no exemptions. The law is supreme over the acts of the Government or the people. Whilst ‘rule by law’ on the other hand is notoriously known as ‘rule by men’. This is characterised by laws that are set and altered at the discretion of a single person or a select group of people. Here the law applies selectively. With this in mind our police have allowed the transition from rule of law to rule by law to take place on their watch. And the journey back to the status quo will prove to be a mammoth task as they have become corrupt to the extent of operation with impunity. We need honesty and men and women with integrity in the uniformed forces to build our nation to what it should be and to safeguard the interests of the ordinary man in the street.
We refuse to be swindled out of our hard earned money because a law enforcement officer has failed to curb his or her appetite for greed and to have our basic human rights encroached upon. So the question that remains is, who shall reign in our law enforcement officers?
I live to see the day I can smile upon the face of a single police officer who has fulfilled his office in a transparent and admirable manner.