CIVIL society is sceptical about Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri’s appeal for all police officers to register as voters ahead of elections set for this year.
REPORT BY OUR STAFF
He also urged freedom of choice in voting.
Late last year, Chihuri dispatched via radio communication to police stations countrywide, instructions for all members and officers to register for voting.
“Commanders are being reminded that voting is a national duty and in this respect, members and officers must take keen interest in the process,” read part of the order.
Although Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) national director, Rindai Chipfunde Vava praised the call, she said she was taking it with a pinch of salt.
“We can’t dismiss the politicking element around the call, but the police officers are entitled to vote as citizens of Zimbabwe. It’s a mixed grill,” she said.
During previous elections, police officers were forced to vote under the close supervision of their commanding officers, with much closer scrutiny over the voting process before the disputed June 2008 runoff elections.
Some said they were forced to vote for Zanu PF.
Chihuri is a self-confessed Zanu PF supporter.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) national director, Okay Machisa said the call by the police chief was within his mandate.
“It is prudent for him to do that. All civil servants are entitled to participate in a democratic process such as the elections,” said Machisa.
“What becomes problematic or unconstitutional is when people are coerced to cast a vote for a particular political party.”
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) executive director, Irene Petras echoed Machisa’s sentiments, urging more transparency over the process.
“In principle, it’s good for everyone to be registered as a voter and it’s a commendable call, as this encourages awareness about the importance of being registered.
“When it comes to the law enforcement agencies, there is a lot of hierarchy, so there is need to ensure that the manner in which the voting process is carried out is proper,” said Petras.
“There would be need to bring in independent observers to ensure that no officers are intimidated into voting for a particular party, because their vote is ultimately their choice.”
Encouraging police officers to vote commendable: Nyoni
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesperson, Thabani Nyoni, said officers should be assured that their votes would be respected, done freely and secretly.
“The call itself should not be seen as anything bad, it is actually good from a point of encouragement. Other organisations including those from civil society itself, are encouraging people to be registered as voters,” said Nyoni.
“What becomes a challenge however, is when they [senior officers] take a step further and tell the juniors who to vote for. We would have expected that the officers are given re-assurance that their vote will be secret and respected.”