The headache of solv­ing crimes

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Feature - Nqo­bile Tshili Fea­tures Cor­re­spon­dent

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

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