A PLANNED police anti-riot operation in residential areas of Bulawayo was Thursday aborted after over 50 officers based at Mzilikazi Police Station rebelled in protest over poor working conditions, NewZimbabwe.com can reveal.
The junior police officers were unhappy that they were being forced to spend 12 hours in uncomfortable anti-riot gear under scorching heat without food, drinking water and breaks.
Sources said on Thursday at 7 am, a unit of anti-riot cops reported for a parade at the police station before superiors informed them of deployments to suburbs of Makokoba, Mzilikazi, Thorngroove and Nguboyenja.
After the briefing, the police officers objected to the order informing their bosses they were unhappy with the force’s deteriorating working conditions.
“Some 50 anti-riot junior officers refused to take orders while on parade to go for an unnamed operation in Makokoba, Nguboyenja, Entumbane, Thorngroove and Mzilikazi Thursday morning,” a source in the police force who cannot be named said.
“They expressed displeasure that they are forced to spend more than 12 hours in full anti-riot gear with baton sticks and helmets under hot temperatures with no time for rest.”
Efforts by the member in charge to take disciplinary action against the revolting junior officers were dismissed by the whole unit.
“At Thursday’s parade, the unit demanded the presence of Officer-in-Charge, Chief Inspector Muzombi who they shared their grievances. The Officer-in-Charge felt the matter was above him and called the Dispol (Officer Commanding Bulawayo West District) Chief Superintendent Bizeki,” he said.
On his arrival, Bizeki phoned officers from the Police Intelligence (PISI) and CID Law and Order who detained the whole unit, ordered them to surrender their cellphones and perused social media platform WhatsApp messages.
Three constables only identified as Nyoni, Ncube and Mushayi, were arrested after being found in possession of incriminating mutinous messages on their cellphones.
“Constable Mushayi is the only remaining suspect under investigation as we speak. The rest of the other officers are not being punished for refusing to take orders. The Dispol also decided to call off the operation.”
Police officers have in the recent past been used by the state to quell protests staged by opposition parties and civil society organisations.
However, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa has in the past condemned government for humiliating police officers by forcing them to put on “toilet chambers” (anti-riot helmets) on their heads while on patrol.
“Why do you subject our cops to ridiculous things?” he asked recently.
Asked for a comment, Bulawayo police spokesperson, Assistant Nomalanga Msebele told the NewZimbabwe.com journalist to pay her a courtesy visit first before she could comment.
“I don’t talk to journalists before they pay me a courtesy visit so that we are in good books. You cannot ask for information on Bulawayo from Harare. About such incidences talk to our national spokesperson,” she said.
Efforts to get a comment from the national spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, were unsuccessful.