The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has transferred 400 police officers to the Support Unit, which is reportedly being beefed up with more sophisticated riot gear ahead of next year’s general elections.
The Support Unit is a branch within the ZRP headquartered at Chikurubi in Harare whose roles include public order management, protection of key or vital installations and VIPs, major disaster and hostage situation management, border patrols, anti-stock theft and sub aqua duties.
National police spokesperson Charity Charamba confirmed the deployment yesterday, saying it was necessitated by manpower shortages at the unit.
“There was a shortage which needed to be filled and it’s not even unusual. The Support Unit feeds from other stations because it is a special branch,” she told the Daily News.
“These are officers who had graduated from training and were deployed to the Support Unit. So if people told you some theories, know that they are lying.”
Only officers who have been in the police force for at least two years were transferred to the Support Unit. A police radio communication indicated that he 400 cops graduated from police training at the same time in 2015.
The July 25, 2017, radio communication by ZRP human resources director Justice Chengeta revealed that some of those transferred had actually earned promotion to levels of assistant inspectors.
“The transfers have been approved and should be implemented immediately,” reads a transcript of the radio communication.
Some of the 400 officers were deployed to the unit headquarters in Harare, and some would be deployed to Fairbridge in Bulawayo, Changadzi in Chipinge and Zvishavane camps.
In addition to the deployment, riot gear is also reportedly being procured and would include shipment of massive equipment such as crowd-control vehicles, guns and tear gas.
The gear also includes special clothes for the cops, clubs and special water cannons.
A senior police source said: “The timing and the type of hardware point to an assessment that there could be violence leading up to the elections and thereafter. So this is to ensure rapid and co-ordinated responses.
“That the security forces will not leave anything to chance is also attested by the on-going training of personnel in rescue operations and crowd control using the latest technology and methods.”
Charamba professed ignorance of the reported planned procurement.
“I don’t know about that,” she said.
Senior police officers are also reported to be due for reshuffling as part of efforts to sustain operations.
A number of programmes have also been lined up to fine-tune police’s plans for the election.