By Anna Chibamu
THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) remains on high alert amid fears some Zimbabweans want to use the Covid-19 lockdown to cause political disturbances in the country, Police Commissioner General Godwin Matanga has said.
Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health and Child Care, Matanga said his officers were working under very unstable conditions as some unidentified elements were bent on taking advantage of the current Covid-19 lockdown operation to destabilise the country.
“As your ZRP, we enforce the law, but we are not allowed to interpret it. At roadblocks we are operating under a very dangerous situation,” Matanga told parliamentarians.
“The whole nation is looking at the Covid-19 pandemic operation yet there are elements within the country who want to do certain things also riding on the same operation.”
Police and army officers manning security checkpoints across the country have been accused of turning away and harassing travellers without valid reasons, affecting their business and family commitments.
However, Matanga defended the move saying this was meant to screen people who wanted to abuse the lockdown and cause disturbances.
“Whilst we are trying to prevent the spread of the virus, some people have certain agendas who want to take advantage of the same operation. I do not want to give discretion at the roadblocks but I am looking at a person coming to town to fend for their families. Too much discretion will cause problems,” added Matanga.
Police failed to comment on why Bulawayo residents were Tuesday chased out of the central business district by armed police and army officers. The city centre remained deserted for the whole day.
“Our officers are under strict instruction not to harass people. There are guidelines for screening people at roadblocks. When we left our offices, we had not heard of such reports from Bulawayo,” said one senior police officer who accompanied Matanga to the committee hearing on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, legislators have not been spared from police and army harassment with MDC Alliance MP Winnie Makonya expressing her displeasure over how she was ill-treated at a roadblock Monday while on her way to attend parliament business.
“I and my friends were very much disturbed by what we saw. We were disturbed by law enforcement officers and the army. We tried to explain to them that we were going to Parliament but all our vehicles were searched at roadblocks. Today some people are unable to travel because of the police and the army,” she said.
Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda had to apologise telling Makonya the law that allowed Parliament to work was only gazetted last Friday.
“I am very sorry about what happened. What happened is this: as Parliament, we were not allowed to work during the lockdown. The law to ensure we are allowed to work was only released on Friday night,” said Mudenda.
“As Members of Parliament, we are not supposed to be stuck in queues. We are supposed to come to Parliament and work. So the law was gazetted that supports work of Parliament. I am sure the law enforcement agents had not yet seen the law.”