MISTRUST and suspicion have intensified within the police in the wake of the alleged abduction and torture of three MDC-Alliance youth leaders with panicky commanders this week taking extraordinary measures and threatening to launch a crackdown on high-ranking officers accused of disregarding strict protocol, it has emerged.
Official documents seen by the Zimbabwe Independent this week, which were corroborated by information obtained from insiders, indicate that all is not well in the law enforcement agency.
Sources said daggers have been drawn against senior officers accused of undermining their superiors and tarnishing the image of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
Among those targeted, sources said, is the current national police spokesperson Paul Nyathi, who is being accused of giving information to the press without clearance from his bosses.
The ZRP has been under heavy public scrutiny since Wednesday last week when three MDC-Alliance members, namely Harare West legislator Joana Mamombe, Cecilia Chimbiri and Netsai Marova, were arrested at a police roadblock in Harare for engaging in an illegal demonstration and violating the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.
They were allegedly whisked away from formal police custody and went missing for two days before being tortured and dumped at a rural shopping centre in Bindura South.
Nyathi came under fire for issuing conflicting statements after he first confirmed that the three opposition youth leaders were indeed in police custody and would be appearing in court to answer to the two charges.
When they disappeared, Nyathi sommersaulted, claiming they were never arrested in the first place. He essentially accused two local dailies of fabricating quotes attributed to him in their reports.
It has now emerged that apart from the public ridicule which came with that, the development has left police chiefs seething with anger as they were reportedly kept in the dark about the dramatic proceedings.
“Things are not looking good at all in the ZRP. First it appears as if when the ladies disappeared from police custody, the top commissioner-general and his deputies were not in the know and they are demanding answers,” a police source said.
“Nyathi is being targeted because of the conflicting statements he made to the press and, as we speak, he has been instructed not to say anything without first seeking approval from the Commissioner-General (Godwin Matanga) himself. The issue was a major embarrassment and we could see heads rolling in the not-too-distant future. There are also allegations that the ZRP is full of officers who are leaking classified information to the press and this is causing huge discomfort,” the source said.
Documents seen by the Independent this week also suggest that Nyathi has since been gagged.“We can reveal that in a confidential internal memorandum dated May 18, deputy commissioner-general (operations) Learn Ncube, instructed senior “Class A” officers to adhere to police standing rules.
“Officers and members are once again reminded to adhere to police standing rules governing communication with the media. Some officers have shown a tendency of giving information to the press. This has caused a lot of anxiety and discord,” the memorandum reads.
Ncube went on to bar the ZRP press and public relations division headed by Nyathi from dealing with the press without Matanga’s express clearance.
“This behaviour should stop forthwith. The task of giving out information that pertains to police operations must be left to the relevant authorities and in any event with clearance from the police commissioner-general. Stern measures will be taken against officers who choose to disregard this instruction,” Ncube wrote.
Contacted for comment, Nyathi claimed he had not seen the memorandum.“I cannot comment on it because I haven’t seen the document,” he claimed.
Sources also indicated that police are preparing dockets for the three MDC-Alliance officials, who could be arrested upon being discharged from hospital.
“As we speak, their dockets are ready and the plan is to pounce on them once they are released from hospital. Remember, violating the lockdown is a serious offence which attracts a custodial sentence of up to one year in prison. So the plan is to bring then to court as soon as they are certified fit enough to stand trial,” a source said.