Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Don't like Bribes ...but We Have to Survive'; Breaking Point: Zimbabwean Police in the Capital, Harare. like Other State Workers, They Want to Be Paid in Foreign Currency

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

'I Don't like Bribes ...but We Have to Survive'; Breaking Point: Zimbabwean Police in the Capital, Harare. like Other State Workers, They Want to Be Paid in Foreign Currency

Article excerpt

Byline: Ian Evans

A ZIMBAWEAN policeman gave an unprecedented insight into life inside Robert Mugabe's regime today as he told of a culture of bribery, political intimidation and a brutal fight for survival.

Steven Beguma (not his real name) works for the government department at the centre of the stand-off between the opposition MDC and president Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Despite numerous talks and summits, the president will not relinquish control of the home affairs department, which controls the country's police.

Talking to Steven at great risk to himself reveals a force near collapse, low morale and officers more likely to break the law than uphold it.

"It is very bad at the moment and police are fed up. This month I get paid 70 trillion Zim dollars which is not even 10 US dollars and last month I got 66 billion.

It is stupid and I can't afford to live," said Steven, an assistant inspector.

Like an increasing number of government employees such as teachers, administrators and, worryingly for the government, soldiers, the police now want payment in "forex" foreign exchange.

"We were on standby all last week because we were told the soldiers were going to riot over forex. They are starving and not happy. More police were on the streets but nothing happened," said Steven, who is in his thirties.

Two months ago soldiers rioted in central Harare but the trouble did not spread and the authorities warned they would take severe retribution against the perpetrators. Steven said police wanted US$500 a month an unlikely sum from a bankrupt government.

While they wait in vain, officers regularly break the law they are paid a pittance to uphold and "help themselves", in the words of Steven.

Policemen in their brown and blue uniforms run an unofficial taxi service in their marked cars with state-bought petrol siphoned from other vehicles and sold for US$2 for five litres from jerry cans. …

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