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Zimbabwe needs 667 police patrol vehicles, not 667 Zupco buses

29 May 2021 at 08:21hrs | Views
BULAWAYO has made headlines for the wrong reasons in recent weeks amid a notable rise in armed robbery cases and other forms of violent crimes. Armed robberies targeting private homes and businesses have followed each other in quick succession, with popular supermarket chain Choppies being targeted in the latest raid, just days after another armed robbery incident claimed the life of a young cashier at Ascot shopping complex.

Although most of these cases are concentrated in the city, it's notable that the whole country is fast degenerating into a crime haven. There are ongoing challenges of machete wielding gangs who have gained notoriety for terrorising people in the Midlands province in broad daylight.

Just as with Bulawayo's gun-toting robbers, the reign of terror of the marauding machete thugs has largely continued unabated and they have been implicated in numerous heinous crimes including robbery, rape, and murder.

These developments, coupled with the fact that the daring thugs are bold enough to conduct their evils in broad daylight and in quick succession, naturally bring under scrutiny the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)'s effectiveness in discharging its duties (as a police body tasked with a constitutional mandate of protecting citizens and property).

Bulawayo Metropolitan Affairs minister Judith Ncube has voiced her concerns over these emergent developments in the city and challenged the police and citizens to work together to end the crimes. Although nothing is wrong with the minister's challenge, such vague and general statements are not the solution.

In fact, it's actually worrying that such vague statements are coming in at a time when there seems to be no evidence of a coherent and pragmatic strategy put in place by the ZRP to deal with the deteriorating situation.

It's also worrying that such vague statements are coming in at a time when authorities have increasingly shown a penchant for channelling scarce financial resources to dubious projects (whose real value to the nation is debatable) at the expense of more pressing issues like tackling the increasing crime rates, among others.

Broadly speaking, rising crime rates speak to the rising poverty levels and a deteriorating socioeconomic status in the country. This is basic knowledge taught in primary school. So part of a lasting solution to the problem involves government committing itself to genuinely addressing the socio-economic issues bedevilling the country and finding ways to eradicate poverty.

Narrowly speaking, the situation highlights a long-known fact that the police are severely under-resourced and this is something that should be corrected as a matter of priority. They are under-resourced to meaningfully collaborate with citizens in crime busting efforts and certainly under resourced and ill-equipped to deal with the problem of sophisticated crimes like armed robbery.

For citizens to effectively partner with the police, it is paramount that there is trust between the two and that there is constant interactivity using modern information communication technologies. Yet it's a sad fact that, in this modern era, operations at our police stations remain manual and the same are not equipped with even the most basic ICT infrastructure like computers.

This means the only interaction that citizens have with the police is via telephone lines, with the next other alternative being to go to the station in person. As such, a lot needs to be done here by considering possible ways in which ICT can be deployed to improve operations at police stations and to facilitate higher collaboration with citizens through fast and efficient exchange of information.

The ZRP also does not have adequate motor vehicles, which means they are highly immobile and useless in emergency situations. Even if I were to alert the nearest police base of an armed robbery via telephone, they would certainly arrive late when the robbers are long gone and the damage already done.

This means that the police are currently not able to fulfil their most important function of protecting and their role has been restricted to the mere investigation of past events. Investigations are okay and very important, but they don't bring back lives lost in violent crimes which could have otherwise been prevented had the police been on active patrol in the streets and ready to respond to distress calls in the shortest time.

It occurs to me that, at present, one could walk the length and breadth of the city without spotting a single police vehicle with the only sight of the police being baton-armed foot policemen.

This is untenable because, even in the best of circumstances, there is only so much that baton-wielding foot policemen can do in situations involving armed robbery.
It is, therefore, not entirely surprising that daring criminals are taking advantage of this glaring shortcoming.

Having highlighted the above, I am surprised that authorities still continue to get priorities wrong. Just last week, Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa announced the Cabinet's resolution to procure 667 additional buses "to enable Zupco to provide a more efficient service to all high-density suburbs".

For the record, it's now common knowledge that the obtaining transport crisis in the country is an artificial one born from the arrogance of monopolising urban transport services to poorly-managed Zupco.

As such, all financial resources that government continues to expend on Zupco represent unwarranted expenditure that serves no real purpose other than solving a non-existent problem.

So, in closing, I pose the question to the reader: Is there a real need for government to fund the procurement of 667 Zupco buses using taxpayers' money when the police are incapacitated to protect the same taxpayer from falling victim to rising cases of armed robbery?

Source - Nkosilathi Lesley Ngwenya
All articles and letters published on Bulawayo24 have been independently written by members of Bulawayo24's community. The views of users published on Bulawayo24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Bulawayo24. Bulawayo24 editors also reserve the right to edit or delete any and all comments received.

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