By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
09 May 2014
Activists have urged members of the public to take advantage of a new police WhatsApp hotline to expose incidents of corruption and human rights violations by the police.
An official statement this week said the police have set up WhatsApp number +263 782475000 to facilitate crime reporting by members of the public. The statement said the number will be on 24 hour monitoring to ‘allow for immediate attention for any issues sent through.’
Youth Forum, a lobby group championing democracy, called on all Zimbabweans within the country and abroad to use the line to ‘report any incidents of police corruption.’ In a statement, the forum also urged the public to report incidents of ‘police brutality’ and if possible send photographs of incidents through.’
The forum urged the police to treat every tip off seriously and act on all issues with the seriousness they deserve. The forum said it is common knowledge that police officers, especially those in the traffic section, were corrupt.
The spokesman for the Human Rights group Ibhetshu Lika Zulu, Edwin Ndlovu, encouraged people to report corruption by traffic cops. He said they should report the time and the police vehicle numbers.
However, Ndlovu expressed fears that the new facility could be a trap because the police would be able to identify people who would have reported and then pursue them. He said: ‘It might be a good facility at face value, but at the same time it could have negative consequences, because the police will be able to identify most of the numbers. These days, mobile phone lines are sold on condition that you register your details.’
Ndlovu’s concerns were shared by the spokesman for the Gwanda Residents for Social Order, Mike Phiri, who said many people will be afraid to report police corruption. Phiri said the people might use the line to report ordinary criminals, but not the police themselves.
Police in Zimbabwe generally act with impunity. Last week a video showing suspected plain clothes officers bashing a couple who were allegedly caught being intimate at a police camp, was circulating in the social media.
They were ordered to lie on their stomachs and were whipped on their backs while other cops filmed them, making sure only the couple could be identified.
Recently, NewsDay editor Nevanji Madanhire and his reporter Moses Matenga were charged for publishing a story about the death of a Harare toddler, who was knocked down by a commuter omnibus fleeing from police officers who were demanding a bribe.
Where action is taken against the police, officers often escape with a slap on their wrist. This week the Zimbabwe Republic Police, instead of prosecuting and dismissing corrupt officers, simply transferred them to different parts of the country. The move will see about 2,000 police officers from the traffic and minerals units transferred from urban to remote areas and vice versa.