HomeEditorial CommentPolice should stop wanton killing of civilians

Police should stop wanton killing of civilians

The tragic death of two civilians who were shot down by police last Thursday night raises the number of people that the police have killed during riotous scenes in Harare.

Each time that this has happened, police have expressed regret and apologised while promising not to allow such cold-blooded murders to happen again — but more innocent people have continued to lose their lives.

Almost every death has been found to be a case of missed target or random shooting.

One of the victims of the Thursday night fiasco was a newspaper vendor who clearly had nothing to do with the skirmishes between the police and civilians over the banning of public transport from the city centre.

Investigations are in progress, but the initial unofficial verdict is that the police officer who pulled the trigger did so out of either fear or undue zeal to demonstrate power.

The official police position as given by the Commissioner-General of Police, Godwin Matanga, was that the police opened fire to protect themselves against an advancing mass of people armed with all sorts of weapons.

Other than stating that the police first fired warning shots before shooting into the people (a claim that could be disputed), the police boss does not seem to find anything untoward with police moving around armed with guns carrying live bullets.

It appears, therefore, that it is the policy of Zimbabwean police to move around armed to kill whenever covering riotous scenes.

It has been very clear that our police are not the marksmen that their bosses believe they are and that each time they go out onto the streets carrying guns, they are risking killing innocent people.

There could be valid reasons for having police armed with lethal weapons, but what clearly lacks in the case of Zimbabwean police is that there is as poor judgement of when to draw a gun with live bullets as there is lack of skill on the use of guns.

There is no evidence to show that the policeman who opened fire and killed two innocent civilians at the Seke Road fly-over in Harare had intelligence advice to do so.

What is evident is that the policeman simply drew his gun and fired into people when it occurred to him that he could be injured by the stones and other weapons that the people were hurling at them.

There is no evidence that the police had no other option to deal with the riots than firing live ammunition and intentionally taking lives.

Each time such tragic disasters have occurred, we have raised pertinent questions about the police action and provided life-saving alternatives that could be equally effective in handling riotous situations.

It is fact that our police officers are not all physically and psychologically able to handle a firearm or to live with the guilt of having used it to end lives.

Therefore entrusting our police on routine patrol duty with guns and live bullets is placing huge responsibility on them.

What needs to be done is to stop arming our police with live ammunition, especially when their duty involves simply monitoring unstable situations.

There are many other means of mob control using the same frightful guns but without deploying live ammo.

Zimbabweans cannot continue to tolerate this unnecessary loss of life.

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading