BY BLESSING MASHAYA

A PARLIAMENTARY committee has pleaded with the government to urgently avail more resources to the police, to curb the waves of violent crime ravaging the country.

In a report this week, the chairperson of the Defence and Home Affairs committee, Levi Mayihlome, implored Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to increase the police’s budget more than five-fold, especially given the fast-approaching 2023 national elections.

“The paltry (current budgetary) allocation amounting to $6,7 billion cannot adequately cover the police’s needs.

“All goods and services for the police service are inescapable, and require an ideal budget of $35,2 billion,” he said.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) should be … funded so that it can be fully equipped with up-to-date, modern technology facilities and equipment that will facilitate the monitoring of all crime flash points anywhere in the country, so that criminal elements can be identified and apprehended timeously.

“Acquisition of firearms and replenishment of ammunition is a major priority, especially considering the impending 2023 general elections, VIP guards and escorts, counter insurgents, tracking and escorting dangerous and armed criminals among other key police duties.

“Fuels, oils and lubricants needed for mobility must be adequately provided. Currently, the organisation is receiving between seven percent and 10 percent of its monthly fuel requirements,” Mayihlome added.

This comes as the country is grappling with escalating violent crime, which includes armed robberies — which in some cases involved people with security backgrounds.

Only this week, three heavily-armed robbers were shot dead by a well-known former senior policeman-turned-lawyer, Joseph Nemaisa, in Harare — after they stormed his home and held his terrified family hostage.

Nemaisa, once part of the police’s Homicide Department who spent decades fighting violent crime in the country, also revealed further that he had survived heavy gunfire from the robbers.

Police have since revealed that among the deceased robbers were two soldiers and a suspect in an earlier US$2,7 million heist, who was on bail.

The law enforcement agents have since apprehended the other two robbers who appeared in court on Thursday, as it emerged that one of them was also a retired officer from the police para-military Support Unit group.

Last month, armed robbers got away with more than US$300 000 and two firearms after they ambushed a Fawcett Security cash-in-transit van along the Harare-Bulawayo highway.

Police investigations later revealed that the robbers were aided by a Fawcett employee in the case.

The heist was similar to a January 6 robbery in which bandits got away with the staggering US$2,7 million belonging to a local bank, after conniving with one of the cash-in-transit van’s drivers.

So far, police have managed to apprehend 11 suspects involved in that robbery which took place at the Gwebi Bridge, along the Harare-Chirundu highway.

Police have offered a US$5 000 reward to any information that could help apprehend the heist’s alleged masterminds — Patson Matengambiri, Shadreck Njowa and Nyasha Chitera — who have remained at large since the heist.

The increasing cases of armed robberies in the country have spooked authorities who have warned that they will descend heavily on all such bandits.

In June, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said authorities would hammer armed robbers and drug peddlers as the government fights to create a safer and more prosperous Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the National Heroes’ Acre during the burial of the late prominent Roman Catholic cleric, Father Emmanuel Ribeiro, Mnangagwa also said the government would leave no stone unturned in its fight against corruption.

“There is a need … to redouble our collective fight against the phenomenon of drugs and other harmful substances abuse.

“My government will, therefore, continue to take stern measures to stamp out this growing threat and in the same vein gun-related crimes will not be tolerated under the Second Republic.

“Law enforcement agencies and the courts must work to ensure that perpetrators of gun-related crimes, violent drug kingpins, and the supply chains of drug peddlers are smoked out and brought to book,” Mnangagwa told mourners.

The current surge in armed robberies has seen Bulawayo and Harare among the worst hit cities in the country.

In May, a petrol attendant was shot in the chest as thieves targeted Flo Garage in Tshabalala suburb in Bulawayo.

Prior to that, armed robbers had also attacked a cash-in-transit van collecting money from a Choppies Supermarket in the second city, before driving away with more than US$11 000.

Also in Bulawayo, a 33-year-old female employee at a Liquor Supplies outlet located at Ascot Shopping Centre was also shot dead after robbers stormed the store.

In March, robbers also pounced on a bureau de-change in Bulawayo’s central business district where they got away with an undisclosed amount of money and hijacked a rapid response vehicle belonging to a security company.

All this also comes as Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe has warned that violent crimes were keeping citizens apprehensive and stifling economic growth.

“Government remains gravely concerned by the continued surge in crimes of a violent nature.

“I, therefore, call upon you (the police) to redouble your efforts and summon all your operational ingenuity to come up with policing initiatives to curb the rise in crime,” Kazembe told a police conference last month.

He also noted that murder, armed robbery and rape cases were on the surge and derailing the country’s development efforts.

“The rise in cases of armed robbery and theft of motor vehicles is also a cause of concern.

“Criminals also continue to target individuals and organisations with large sums of foreign currency.

“Crimes such as armed robberies derail the government’s efforts to lure foreign direct investment as they project the country as an unsafe investment destination.

“While I appreciate the concerted efforts that have been made thus far to tame this tide, I cannot over-emphasise the urgent need to totally expunge this crime,” Kazembe said further.

Equally disturbing, he added, was the rise in general murder cases and the prevalence of rape cases, particularly the sexual abuse of juveniles.

He revealed that between January and June this year, police had recorded a 16 percent increase in the rape of juveniles when compared to the same period last year.

“Such repulsive statistics should spring any police commander to action. Children are the future of any nation and thus cannot continue to be violated under your watch.

“Our country has always been renowned for not only being peaceful, but also a humane and civil republic,” Kazembe said.

Speaking at the same conference, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga also lamented the rise in crime this year.

“Crime, in general, has increased by 3,7 percent during the period January to September 2021, when compared to the same period last year.

“You may also recall that our goal as an organisation is to limit the growth of crime by three percent. 

“We have the potential to tame this tide by redoubling our efforts and ensuring that perpetrators of crime are brought to justice,” Matanga said. – Daily News