The transformation over the past year of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), which is part of President Mnangagwa’s reform agenda, is burying the ghost of post-election violence that rocked the country exactly a year ago.
Deadly violence flared last year as opposition MDC-Alliance supporters unleashed mayhem in Harare before the announcement of Presidential election results, with the outcome of other harmonised polls indicating a trouncing of the main opposition and its candidate Mr Nelson Chamisa.
In a move calculated to besmirch the outcome that had won praise from the international community for its peaceful conduct, violent goons launched onto the streets destroying property, with a stated aim of burning the Election Command Centre run by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) at a Harare hotel.
In the resultant mayhem, six people lost their lives after deadly force was used by ruthless soldiers to quell the violence.
President Mnangagwa appointed the seven-member Motlanthe Commission of Inquiry to look into the incident, with the commission submitting its report containing recommendations to the President late last year.
And ZRP, heavily cited in the report for its handling of the situation at a time when its resources were stretched, has been undergoing major transformation as it adopts a new structure and rebrands to win back public confidence.
The organisation is set to be called the Zimbabwe Republic Police Service.
“The ZRP has been undergoing retraining and capacitation in order to ensure that civil authority is better able to manage any instance of public disorder or unrest which may occur in the future; and so that recourse to the military will be avoided,” Government said this week.
“Part of that retraining has focused on human rights-related aspects of policing and law-enforcement more generally, and has been well-received and appreciated by all those involved.”
“In line with the Motlanthe Commission recommendations, the new Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) is very clear in articulating the operational framework governing instances in which the military may be deployed in support of an overwhelmed civil authority (the Police) and requires that in any such instance, the military will be placed under the control of that Civil Authority. The soldiers, in any such future instance, will operate under the command structure of the police.”
In an interview yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they will soon issue a detailed report on what the organisation has so far done.
“The Zimbabwe Republic Police will give a detailed departmental brief through the parent ministry on the ongoing Zimbabwe Republic Police rebranding thrust, re-engagement with the public, training and equipping of officers with the relevant tools of trade soon,” he said.
In April this year, Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga in a speech during the opening of the rebranding and refresher courses for 55 senior police officers from Bulawayo province at the police’s Ntabazinduna Depot in Matabeleland North, said they were now implementing the commission’s recommendations on the conduct of the police.
He said violent scenes that were witnessed in August last year and January this year exposed some police shortcomings.
He said criticism and feedback from the public will propel ZRP into offering a world class service.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the force, just like most modern police organisations derives its legitimacy from the people, hence it is committed to continuously learn under public scrutiny.
Comm-Gen Matanga said the Commission’s recommendations include equipping the police with the necessary skills and capacity for dealing with rioters, further training in order to be professional and nonpartisan in the interest of national cohesion, the protection of all citizens as well as preventing corporal failings in the future.
“We are obligated to take heed of matters that are of concern to the public. Indeed our code of conduct, the Police Client Service Charter and all our policies underscore the importance of professionalism in all police endeavours,” he said.
Comm Gen Matanga said ongoing refresher courses will transform the force into a people oriented force.
He said the courses cover crime management, management of discipline, corruption, customer care, briefing and debriefing, public order management, cyber-crime and intellectual crime, community policing, retirement planning, integrated results based management and the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, among others.
He also said the ZRP is in the process of rebranding into a modern police force that fits within the country’s developmental goals of transforming the country into an upper middle income economy by 2030.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) also approved a new Zimbabwe Republic Police structure that abolished the rank of senior assistant commissioner and replaces it with that of Commissioner of Police as the force continue to undergo major transformation.