In a damning revelation of improper practices by the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Mail & Guardian can divulge that the police commissioner, General Augustine Chihuri, has ordered the police force to ensure that Zanu-PF wins the election that is expected to be held later this year.
Cabinet members were this week presented with copies of a speech that was delivered by Chihuri at a retreat for the police's top brass, which took place from December 14 to 20 in Vumba in the Eastern Highlands.
In his speech, a copy of which the M&G has seen, Chihuri did not mince his words, saying there are "surrogates of the imperialists that should never rule this country. If you are not going to support Zanu-PF, you are not fit to be wearing the uniform and its decorated medals.
"The time to leave is now, if you are not going to toe the line," he said.
Police spokesperson assistant commissioner Charity Charamba refused to comment, saying she was in meetings and "too busy" to take questions.
Senior members of the police who participated in the retreat confirmed that last November an internal memo invited top police officers, among them assistant and senior assistant commissioners, commissioners and deputy commissioners general, to the Eastern Highlands for a "state security meeting" relating to this year's elections.
"The meeting was unprecedented in that we have never held such a meeting before, in which all police top brass are invited under one roof to discuss elections," a senior assistant commissioner said. "We spent four days of intense indoctrination, where issues to do with how to deal with all political opponents not aligned to Zanu-PF were spelt out."
The senior assistant commissioner added that "what shocked all of us is that, instead of discussing national state security matters and our preparedness ahead of elections, the meeting degenerated into a political meeting where virtues of our liberation struggle were expressed, and so-called counter-revolutionaries were denigrated in a manner that we felt we were all going to war against the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC]," he said.
The senior police officers who spoke to the M&G said they feared their reputations were again going to be soiled as they has been widely implicated in politically motivated incidents during the 2008 poll, whose disputed outcome gave birth to the coalition government.
"Some of us we are worried about life after retirement, are we going out with our integrity intact?" an assistant commissioner asked.
In his speech, Chihuri warned that "anyone who should be seen to be aiding and supporting the enemy should ship out of the force". He also issued veiled threats to his colleagues, saying his word was "final, and carried authority from the top".
Chihuri's speech was read out verbatim in Cabinet on Tuesday, leading to high levels of anxiety and tension.
It came hot on the heels of another turbulent Cabinet meeting last week, at which MDC ministers collectively accused Zanu-PF's secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, of being responsible for the death of 12-year-old Christpowers Maisiri.
The child was killed allegedly to punish his father, Shepherd Maisiri, who is an aspiring MDC councillor in the Headlands area in eastern Manicaland.
The MDC alleges that Christpowers was burnt to death after Zanu-PF supporters petrol-bombed the hut in which he slept. Mutasa has refuted the claims.
Sources privy to Cabinet deliberations on the matter said the release of Chihuri's speech during Cabinet proceedings was designed to expose how partisan the police force was ahead of the elections.
The sources said President Robert Mugabe remained mum during the presentation of the speech. A heated debate ensued, but nothing was resolved and the next item on the agenda was addressed.
At the December retreat, the police officers said, strategies to subdue political opponents, disrupt rallies or meetings, target influential individuals in rural areas and target non-governmental organisations as ways to "safeguard the revolution" were discussed.
"The recent actions by the police in the country clearly show that Zimbabwe is going back to the past and quickly becoming a police state," said McDonald Lewanika, executive director at Crisis Coalition, a human rights group.
Lewanika said the latest raids on non-governmental organisations and the disruption of meetings – even those involving Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai – clearly show that "police decisions are patently politically informed".
"Under these conditions, elections will be a nightmare and a credible referendum [is] a pipe dream," he said.
Crackdown on opposition
Recent police action to disrupt public meetings organised by civic groups and the Movement for Democratic Change, arrests of members of non-government organisations and seizures of radios distributed in rural areas have heightened tension in the power-sharing government.
Zimbabweans are due to vote on the draft Constitution on March 16. Political parties in the inclusive government agreed to hold countrywide publicity meetings to market the draft Constitution and mobilise for a yes vote.
This week, about 50 antiriot police officers blocked Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from campaigning for the Constitution in Harare's Highfield township because he had allegedly not obtained police clearance.
Recently, non-governmental organisations the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and Radio Dialogue, a community station, were raided by police and 180 wind-up radios were seized. Radio Dialogue's manager, Zenzele Ndebele, was arrested and later released, but is due to appear in court for possessing unlicenced receivers. Police spokesperson assistant commissioner Charity Charamba told journalists that the organisations were storing "subversive materials, documents and illegally imported gadgets for use in hate speech". She said they were "targeting Zanu-PF and no other parties" and that they were working with former state security spy agents to spy on the party. The ZPP, Charamba claimed, was an unregistered entity.
However, the ZPP has been operating for the past four years and it said it was registered as an NGO. –Inyasha Chivara