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When values go sideways: A word to the Police

Growing up it was not uncommon to hear an exasperated mother trying to get her tantrum-throwing toddler to eat by threatening, ‘Should I call the police to arrest you?’

Armed Zimbabwean police surround a rioter in Harare, Monday, July, 4, 2016.Police in Zimbabwe’s capital fired tear gas and water cannons in an attempt to quell rioting by taxi and mini bus drivers protesting what they describe as police harassment.The violence came amid a surge in protests in recent weeks because of economic hardships and alleged mismanagement by the government of President Robert Mugabe.(AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

I am certain that no-one ever envisioned the terror that the police force Zimbabwe Republic Police would unleash on disgruntled citizens, within their constitutional rights to protest peacefully.

I am certain that no-one ever anticipated how, with exaggerated, drooling glee, the ZRP at roadblocks would utter the question, ‘Do you want to be arrested?’ to citizens whose crime it is to be on the road, sometimes simply to and from work, never mind the intercity highways.
When values go sideways: A word to the Police
No-one ever foresaw that the body charged with the protection of citizen rights would be at the fore of using brutal force to get that US$10 upwards for an infringement created in the spur of the moment, not documented in the pages of the law.

No mum trying to scare her child into eating ever in their minds envisioned that someday it would be her daughter or son hiding behind the mask of Riot Police or the washed out, frayed blues and greys.

See, the uniform is fine to hide behind. It is easy to be part of a mob injecting fear into the hearts of miserable people. It is easy because after it’s the police that whisk you away or terrify you, and your children in the backseat, where is there to turn?

Where do you turn when you have been injured, and can’t afford to get yourself to the hospital, or the nearest police station to file a police report? Against them.

The pictures and videos that have been circulating of police ruthlessly beating, mocking people, and a report of a baby that lost his life in a tear gassing incident, are cause for concern. On social media, commentators have been posting really eye opening images of the comparison of the Rhodesian police force in the 70s to the police force of 2016.

Three stark images come to mind. The white Smith regime police unleashing dogs baying for the black man’s blood to the one in full colour from last week of the black policeman in exactly same stance. The other is the Riot Policeman with his black boot poised heavily and triumphantly on a man on the ground’s head. The third is of one sneering while still firing his gun as his fellow mobsters walk off in the background.

My question to the police is this – when your masks and your gang are not with you, are you proud of yourself? Are you pleased with a day’s job well done? Are you too not mothers and fathers – what does the future of Zimbabwe learn from you?

Look, I don’t know what the audition requirements to qualify as one of you is, but I suspect illiteracy is a large component. The Constitution of Zimbabwe reads in short, and nowhere is there an addendum ‘…but I can do what I like to citizens when I like, especially when I am with my homies…’:

Part 2: Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms
Section 58: Right to life
Section 49: Right to personal liberty
Section 50: Rights of arrested and detained persons
Section 51: Right to human dignity
Section 52: Right to personal security
Section 53: Freedom from torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment
Section 58: Freedom of assembly or association
Section 59: Freedom to demonstrate and petition
Section 61: Freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

Please, despite what tattered state we are in today, remember that the day will come when you too are regular citizens of Zimbabwe. Please stand up for us, don’t let us fear you, as we are all grown adults, trying to do the best for our families, not the toddler refusing to eat!

Bridgette Malenga is a keen observer of the world around her, often running her opinions and questions off at the most importune times; she is a firm believer that there is always more to learn and better to aim for.

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