The headache of solving crimes
ONE of the most gruesome murders ever witnessed in Bulawayo in recent years which cost Ester Nkiwane (63) her life remains unsolved to date, more than nine months after its commission. Nkiwane, who was a housemaid in Hillside Suburb, was killed by an unknown attacker last year in November at her employer’s house.
Police moved in quickly and arrested a male suspect after neighbours claimed they spotted him jumping over the precast walls of three houses before disappearing.
It later turned out that the man was innocent and police had to release him.
The arrest of the wrong suspect could have been avoided if the police had a sketch artist on its pay roll. Sketch artists can draw portraits of suspects that help police in their investigations.
In April, a Bulawayo man accused of breaking into a woman’s house and raping her, heaved a huge sigh of relief after a DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) test exonerated him.
He was wrongly arrested after a woman picked him out on the streets and claimed that he raped her.
The DNA test which was conducted at the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Applied Genetics Testing Centre (AGTC) exonerated the man leading to the charges being dropped.
Mr Bubblington Sibanda of New Magwegwe suburb could be languishing in prison serving a maximum sentence of 20 years for a crime he never committed if the DNA tests were not done.
Limited resources are affecting the police’s endeavour to embrace new technology in fighting crime, says National police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba.
She says although police are lagging behind in new crime solving methods, they remain committed to improving their services.
“ZRP like any other organisation is affected by lack of resources. We’ve a shortage of vehicles which affects our response time in remote areas.
However, we are making progress through the Home Affairs Ministry which partnered the University of Zimbabwe to train police officers in forensic investigation of crime,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
She says forensic investigations will propel the force to greater heights in a world where criminals have also become more sophisticated.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba says the advent of information communication technologies has worsened the situation.
Cyber-crimes are rampant and the country is yet to promulgate a law that will regulate social media use, she says.
“The advent of social media has brought with it the challenge of cyber-crime. When people commit crime on social media there is no law that can be used against them and it’s even difficult to trace them.
“Some of these people are not even based in Zimbabwe,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
President Mugabe recently challenged police officers to sharpen their investigative skills saying, “modern criminal syndicates have become more organised and sophisticated”.
He said in July at a police graduation ceremony that Government was finalising the Criminal Investigations Department (Serious Frauds) Computer Laboratory and the Automated Fingerprints Identification System in a technological development that will see a new and improved police force.
“These facilities should go a long way in providing and improving police officers’ investigative and technological skills, which in turn should assist in providing strategies for combating crime.
“… We now live in a social environment which has ushered in novel and sophisticated crimes.
“Human trafficking, money laundering, terrorism, among other new crimes, were a few years back almost unknown to us.
But today’s criminal syndicates are better organised, more prevalent, sophisticated and daring.
They have no respect for national borders, the sanctity of human life, and will stop at nothing in their criminal endeavours,” President Mugabe said.
The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Obedingwa Mguni, urged police officers to speak the local languages of the community they serve so that they improve in their work.
Police have on many occasions been exposed in their crowd control strategies at soccer matches and during demonstrations where they use teargas to disperse people.
There are, however, many instances where police have done well in carrying out their duties.
In July they arrested over 86 people for public violence in Bulawayo while 22 others were arrested for looting at a shop in Mzilikazi.
All this seems to slip the minds of members of the public who opt to remember graphic encounters with alleged police brutality. Videos of alleged police brutality in Harare’s Epworth were captured on social media following the skirmishes that rocked the capital.
International media was quick to accuse the police of human rights abuse, ignoring the damage caused by the protestors as they claimed that police were violating the right to protest.
The international media turned a blind eye on those protestors who were instigating violence which is condemned globally.
The videos prompted Snr Asst Comm Charamba to issue a statement to the effect that police were investigating the cases of alleged brutality.
Lawyers said successful policing entails the police involving members of the public in their operations and working closely with them.
Mr Tineyi Mukwewa of Abameli Human Rights Lawyers says one of the challenges affecting the police force is that its members do not undergo re-training courses.
He says re-training courses are important as they help the police to keep in touch with changing trends of policing.
“The challenge we’ve is that there hasn’t been retraining. In the early 2000s there was a programme by a group of lawyers to train the police on available human rights principles.
“As far as I’m concerned there hasn’t been a deliberate programme by human rights organisations and police to train officers,” said Mr Mukwewa.
However, police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri believes policing has changed in the country from a coercive force to a people oriented service.
In his book, The History of Policing in Zimbabwe, Dr Chihuri says: “Policing in Zimbabwe has been tactfully transformed from the old BSAP tradition of policing that was characterised by threats and coercion, into a vibrant people-centred approach that upholds first and foremost, the sanctity of life as well as the values and aspirations of all Zimbabweans regardless of their status, race, tribe, religion, colour or creed.”
Comm Gen Chihuri’s assertion gives an overview of how the police are expected to conduct their duties in modern Zimbabwe.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba says members of the public need to play their part in fighting cyber-crime instead of leaving the police to fight it alone.
She said police were receiving undue criticism from members of the public yet they had a culture of getting rid of undisciplined members.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba urged members of the public to work together with the police in maintaining peace and help improve the image of the police by acting responsibly and desisting from bribing police officers.
“Members of the public are also to blame for fuelling corruption among police officers. If officers are not enticed with money they will not be found liable for corruption,” she said.
But today’s criminal syndicates are better organised, more prevalent, sophisticated and daring. They have no respect for national borders, the sanctity of human life, and will stop at nothing in their criminal endeavours,” President Mugabe said. The Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Obedingwa Mguni, urged police officers to speak the local languages of the community they serve so that they improve in their work
Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba