Commuter bus drivers are always on the lookout for the men and women in the grey and navy blue uniforms; who are always at hand to chase them down the road to demand documents such as driver’s licences and operating permits.
The people chasing the commuter omnibuses are the police force who wield their infamous black batons.
Drivers who dare keep driving ignoring the police are given instantaneous punishment of having the windscreens of their vehicles smashed. The mushikashika small vehicles that are also in the business of ferrying passengers are not spared.
There is continuous public outcry about the consequences of the police officers’ actions.
It’s is an offence according to the Vehicle Registration & Licencing Act [Chapter 12:14] to drive a vehicle which has a “windscreen not providing clear vision”.
Section 54 of SI 154 states: “The windscreen shall be so constructed that, if it is damaged in any manner, it will ensure a safe degree of visibility for the driver”; yet the impact of the police officer’s baton is aimed in the position right in the face of the driver. I wonder if the police officers do prosecute the commuter omnibus drivers for this offence, knowing that the smashed screens are a result of their “hand -work”.
Is there any other better way of enforcing the law against the kombis other than smashing windscreens? The jury is out as to whose doorstep the blameworthiness should lie at in the instances where innocent people are killed when the kombi drivers are trying to evade the police; is it the police or is it the kombi drivers? You are the judge, whatever your answer you definitely have your justification.
Now the police have taken centre stage in a matter that involved the Vapostori sect in Budiriro. I was chatting to some colleagues recently and the central topic was that of the Vapostori saga that is still ongoing in Budiriro.
The facts that are generally available to the public through the press are that a sect of the Johane Masowe Chishanu in Budiriro led by a certain Madzibaba Ishmael was being threatened with closure of their shrine and worship services by the Apostolic Christian Council of Zimbabwe (ACCZ). It is reported that the members of the sect turned amok and attacked the police officers, ACCZ officials and journalists who had descended on their shrine.
There are allegations that the sect has been practicing their religion in a manner that went against the doctrines of Christianity. Some of the allegations against the sect are gross.
They are being accused of, among other things, denying children the right to go to school, forcing girls into marriages, conducting virginity tests and forcing women to provide their husbands with virgin girls if they were not virgins when they got married.
The approach by the ACCZ was to ban the sect from conducting services. It is reported that the ACCZ played an instrumental role in the probe and arrest of Robert Martin Gumbura of the RGM End Time Message Church.
The question that springs to mind is then why did ACCZ not recommend that the particular Vapostori congregation be investigated and that the perpetrators of the abuses be brought before the courts to answer to their crimes.
The Vapostori sect is a highly “amphibious” and “self-propagating” church that requires great tact to deal with. The sect does not require any building or amenities to start a congregation. All they require is a group of people who have the attire and know the fellowship routines, an open space on the peripherals of residential areas to start a church.
There are no bills to pay and once the place in which they meet is no longer available, they will just look for another open space. Surely banning such a group of people from congregating is like telling a group of vendors in a particular street of Harare that they are banned from selling their wares at a particular street corner.
They may not come back to that street corner but they surely will choose another street and continue with their business.
A question to the ACCZ; Was it the intention of the council to “ban” the particular sect and reasonably expect that the group of persons that congregate in that place would then accept the banishment and subsequently reform from their practices.
Christianity is a branch of philosophical idealism; founded on the very believe of the superbeing and the acceptance that a human mind has limited knowledge which can only be guided spiritually.
Was there an expectation that announcing a banishment was going to have any effect more than dispersing the sect members who would then regroup and continue practicing their religion in a different; lamenting their “perceived persecution”.
Within the same Vapostori sect, a leader of a congregation Godfrey Nzira from Chitungwiza was arrested about a decade ago. He was arrested for his offences of rape; and he did his time behind bars.
Can the ACCZ explain what they intended to achieve with the ban and why they did not favour conducting investigations and bringing the perpetrators of the said abuses before the courts.
Going back to the police force; were they fully aware that they were accompanying the ACCZ on a mission to ban a religious sect accused of sexual abuse; such as the checking of the virginity of daughters by their fathers using fingers?
Were they reasonably aware the very sect that they were going to was being accused of marrying off young girls before their age of sexual consent? Were they aware of the fact that there were other human rights abuses within the sect? The questions for the police force are a score and a dozen.
The police officers at the scene of the clash with the Vapostori are seen in media photos brandishing baton sticks and wearing “riot gear”. Were they preparing for a riot? . What was the mission on the day of the visit? This question is for both that ACCZ and the police force.
Was the mission to deliver the message of the ban? Or was the mission to effect the ban on the very instant the message was delivered?; thus telling everyone to pack their bags and go home.
What was expected of the people who are dependent on their religion for spiritual strength to do after that? There is a saying that a cornered rat will fight a cat and despair turns the cowards courageous.
Sam Hlabati is a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR®), a Certified Compensation Professional (CCP®) and a Global Remuneration Professional (GRP®). E-mail email@example.com; twitter handle; @samhlabati