THE surprise wholesale transfer of 500 Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers from Beitbridge last week was sparked by a police internal security (PSI) report claiming the police ignored early warnings on the protests which rocked the border town on July 1 and were likely to turn violent resulting in “inadequate” deployments.
By Elias Mambo
Beitbridge residents took to the streets to protest against the importation ban of several basic commodities through Statutory Instrument 64/2016. The demonstration resulted in a Zimbabwe Revenue Authority warehouse being burnt while some property was damaged. The protests fuelled riots countrywide resulting in many high level security meetings which led to the mass transfers. Officials said security chiefs felt that police officers deployed in Beitbridge had “melted into the community in ways that compromised their policing role and duties.”
Police bosses also felt that officers in the town did not use adequate force to crush the demonstrations because of their close relationships with the Beitbridge community and vested interests.
“Some of the police officers were also involved in cross-border trading and were not happy with SI64. They identified with the protestors. In addition many police officers were involved in the buying and selling of cars literally turning Beitbridge Police Station into a car sale,” said one government official. Government also feared that the police officers would fail to contain any future demonstrations and decided to redeploy them because the town is considered strategic as it is the busiest port of entry in the country and region.
Beitbridge border post has an average daily traffic volume of close to 10 000.
It also facilitates the movement of international cargo and millions of people between Southern Africa and central, east and north Africa.