Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri has come under fire for openly threatening citizen activists critical of President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF government.
Chihuri last Friday met with the Attorney General (AG), Prince Machaya, and his staff to discuss the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) and was critical of the office for perceived shoddy handling of cases involving protests.
At the meeting, the police chief also warned that the law enforcement agency would strike back at protesters who have been demonstrating against corruption, security sector brutality and bad governance since June.
“To our brothers and sisters advocating for violence, they should take heed of a well-known African saying ‘if one rattles a snake, then he or she should be prepared to be bitten by it’ . . . those who do not want trouble with the law should equally not trouble the law,” he said in reference to the protesters.
The People’s Democratic Party (PDP), however, was riled by Chihuri’s threat, saying it showed his intolerance to dissent.
“What we find shocking is that Chihuri has chosen to declare war on innocent people and disregard the country’s constitution,” said Jacobe Mafume, the PDP spokesperson, in a statement.
He accused Chihuri, a self-confessed admirer of Mugabe and supporter of Zanu PF, of meddling in politics against the provisions of the constitution that requires the security sector to be impartial.
“We urge him (Chihuri) to remove his police uniform and join Zanu PF structures fulltime as it is wrong and unconstitutional for him to shield behind the police force and issue out unguided political statements.
His utterances are clearly from a factional Zanu PF member who masquerades as the country’s top cop while forgetting that his constitutional mandate is to serve every Zimbabwean in a non-partisan manner and without bias,” said Mafume.
He said Chihuri was using the police as an extension of the Zanu PF security department, adding that he “should be aware that peaceful demonstrations are a right to every Zimbabwean as clearly defined in the constitution.”
Police has been widely condemned for using excessive force on citizens who have taken to the streets to protest against the current social, political and economic crisis marked by growing poverty, a cash crisis, human rights abuses and bad governance.
“It is regrettable that Chihuri wants to unleash terror on peaceful civilians whose only crime is the demand for the Zanu PF regime to respect the country’s Constitution and provide jobs,” said Mafume.
Police have twice banned peaceful civil demonstrations in central Harare.
While the courts reversed the first one, the second one which will last till mid-October is being challenged.
During the meeting with the AG, Chihuri complained that prosecution was prejudicing police work.
“There is no doubt that some cases brought before the courts are spurious, frivolous and deliberately designed to render the regulating authorities powers under POSA redundant.
“At times there are occasions when we feel facts are not properly represented or that the AG’s office has acted unilaterally on their own volition without representing our interests and those of innocent citizens going about their daily chores and the nation at large,” said Chihuri.