For 16 years, city fathers have been advocating for council police to be given arresting powers to help enforce local bylaws.
Currently, municipal police are only legally able to act as guards. As such, City of Harare (CoH) say they have struggled to maintain the city and have to rely on the ZRP to carry out their arrests — a time consuming and problematic process.
In spite of several rejections of the idea by central government, municipalities from around the country have renewed their calls to be given this power.
Harare Mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni — chairperson of the Urban Councils Association of Zimbabwe (UCAZ) — was last year quoted by the media saying without arresting powers, councils would continue to fail to regulate by-laws.
“While we are responsible for the setting up of certain conducts within our jurisdiction, we are not able to enforce because we do not have arresting powers, and hence we are constantly looked down upon. We have noticed there has been a sudden increase of resistance in our areas of jurisdiction,” said Manyenyeni.
CoH is once again in the process of negotiating for the granting of arresting powers.
Harare’s Acting Corporate Communications Manager, Michael Chideme, said granting council police arresting powers will bring in much-needed revenue to sustain ailing urban councils.
“Granting of arresting powers will help in law enforcement because once we arrest and fine the people, the money will come to council, better equipping the council for better enforcement,” he said.
However, some residents believe granting councils arresting powers will not easily translate to improved enforcement of by-laws.
Director of Harare Residents Trust (HRT), Precious Shumba, noted that the idea of granting councils arresting powers can only work after eliminating the vices of abuse of power and corruption.
“The City of Harare does not need arresting powers first; they need to be more accountable, and more responsive to the needs of citizens. Of course, arresting powers will be necessary, but it has been observed that council employees in Harare Municipal Police are ill-trained to uphold the Constitution of Zimbabwe. They also do not really understand the human rights entitled to people,” noted Shumba.
Shumba added that the granting of arresting powers in the current situation will only fuel corruption as council police officers will start demanding more bribes from arrested citizens.
“The concept of arresting powers is good, but it only works effectively where municipal police officers are adequately trained to handle citizens — fully cognisant of their rights, obligations, and their duties under the laws of the country . . . Under the prevailing socio-economic conditions, it is impossible to have social order, and security because the essential basic needs of the citizens are not being met,” said Shumba.