HOME AFFAIRS deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni says serving police officers caught operating commuter transport businesses and gold mining among other private ventures face dismissal from the force while edging citizens to report the offending police officers.
This was however, challenged by Matebeleland South Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa who said government has allowed the police to act with impunity and remain untouchable despite evidence of immoral acts associated with the country’s law enforcers.
“The law is there in the Standing Orders of the Commissioner General of Police and that the police should not be involved in pirating taxes or gold mining,” Mguni told Senators during the upper house’s question and answer session last Thursday.
He was responding to Matebeleland North Senator Madeline Bhebhe who asked if serving police officers could operate mines and some other business ventures.
Mguni said the practice was contrary to police officers’ mandate which involves enforcing the country’s laws, adding that the public should help identify serving cops who are involved in the acts.
“…We need to work together as a forum and the community if we see such people doing that and inform the Commissioner General of Police so that the person may be guided or disciplined in line with the law.
“If we say these people are in charge of implementing the law and they are the ones found breaking the law, it does not work out well.
“Even the residents can help us so that those who are involved in such activities, we take measures against them so that the law is upheld.”
Mguni was further challenged by Mlotshwa who accused government of corrupting members of the police force and allowing them to act with impunity.
But Mguni, in his response, told Senators that as legislators, they also had the obligation to “correct the anomalies”.
“If we find a police officer involved in such activities, we discharge them from service. We do not allow them to be involved in corrupt activities.
“If an officer disobeys the law, we will reprimand them. We have laws to correct such anomalies. We are there for them.”
While cases of police officers being charged for operating private businesses outside their bosses’ permission are rare, three senior police officers were last year charged for allegedly operating a gold mine in Kwekwe in violation of the Police Act.
The three, Superintendents Themba Mpofu, Tambudzai Muchineuta and Batsirai Mungwa, were later cleared by the courts after the state had failed to prove the claims during trial.
Zimbabwean police have often been accused of taking bribes from locals and reinvesting them into private businesses such as kombis and pirate taxis.
Some junior police officers earning amounts as little as $500 per month have also been found leading lifestyles far beyond their financial capacities.
In 2014, Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators (GHACO) chairman Cosmas Mbonjani told parliament’s portfolio committee on Transport that nearly 50 percent of commuter transport plying Harare routes were owned by serving police officers whose drivers, he said, were often spared the harassments that the rest were being subjected to by traffic cops.