By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
17 January 2014
33 traffic police officers, accused of soliciting bribes, have been transferred to other stations, sparking an outcry from Zimbabweans.
On Friday the state media reported that the 33, including an officer-in-charge at Avondale Police Station in Harare, were transferred over alleged “intolerable corruption levels”.
The whole unit was disbanded Wednesday after a motorist, who was in the company of well-known musician Jah Prayzah, formally complained that one of the officers had demanded a $50 bribe from him.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police’s internal investigations team swiftly reacted to a complaint by the motorist, but the money was not recovered. It was recommended that the officers all be transferred,” the Herald said.
Some social commentators however say that the officers should have been dismissed, because letting them keep their jobs is akin to condoning corruption.
“It does not make sense that instead of being fired they have been transferred. Only in Zimbabwe do you get this kind of response to corruption,” Ephraim Ndimande posted on Facebook.
Makabongwe Apollo Ncube said the transfers were just a slap on the wrist for the corrupt officers. “They call it kuchengetana pabasa” (it’s called looking out for one another), he commented Friday.
Shepherd Mwenda said it was unlikely that the transfers will act as a deterrent for the corrupt officers. “The ZRP leadership is simply spreading the problem around rather solving it,” he said.
Another commentator, identified only as Kudzi, said the corruption in the police traffic department reflects more than 30 years of bad leadership in the country.
“How can one expect them to be fired when the very same powers-that-be have been recycling themselves for over three decades now.”
He decried what he said was a culture whereby underperformers, or corrupt individuals and those who lose elections, remain in their positions.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba described the transfer of the 33 officers “as routine”.
Zimbabwe’s police are amongst the most corrupt in the southern Africa region, according to a recent survey by global lobby group Transparency International.
Last week the NewsDay newspaper revealed that two officers had been arrested after they solicited bribes of more than $2,000 along the Harare-Masvingo Road.
The money, which was hidden in a rubbish pit near the checkpoint, was found by a 10-year-old girl from Beatrice who gave it to her parents.
When the traffic officers discovered what had happened to the hidden money, they allegedly followed, harassed the family and confiscated a further $132 of their own money from them. The family has since been summoned to Harare as part of police investigations into the matter.
In October last year, 19 senior police officers were either retired or transferred amid reports of criminal activity and corruption.
Rights campaigner and prominent actor Bernard Bhekilizwe Ndlovu said corruption in the country went to the very top levels of political leadership.
Ndlovu said it would be difficult for police chief Augustine Chihuri to stem malpractices within the force “because his hands are tied by his own corruption”.
“Corruption is part of the legacy of President Robert Mugabe’s leadership. For example, most businesses, and the economy, belong to Mugabe’s close or distance relatives,” Ndlovu added.
Ndlovu said any leader who engages in nepotism and corruption will not be willing to promote a police force that is transparent and accountable.
“Claims by ZANU PF officials that curbing corruption is top of their agenda are just cheap talk, and these transfers prove that the party tolerates it,” he added.