Here is a fun fact: The Zimbabwe Republic Police has no official website – at least I could not find one and that means if the site exists most people cannot find it either. They are, to the best of my knowledge, not on Twitter and the only official looking Facebook page I could find appears to have been scrapped from Wikipedia. Meanwhile the Ministry of Home affairs website, under which the Police fall, keeps returning a ‘page unavailable’ error. In contrast the British South African Police (BSAP) website is well and alive and they have a frequently updated Facebook page. For those who bunked History the BSAP was the colonial police force that was superseded by the ZRP in 1980. While at it, does anyone know how to email the police?
I for so long now have lamented the conspicuous manner in which the ministry of Home Affairs has managed to ignore useful technology even when it is cheap and readily available. It was refreshing therefore to read a statement in the Herald by the Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi, saying that the ZRP will soon be using technology at roadblocks to curb corruption that has become rife. Before you get too excited however you should know that this “technology” does not involve the use of computers, cameras or anything. It seems the police will be using portable Electronic Transaction Processing devices that will allow central tallying and processing of road block proceeds at the police headquarters in Harare. Suffice to say this is a small but important precedent.
However, whilst it is a step in right direction, from an accounting point of view it is difficult to see how this will “curb corruption.” The devices can easily be beaten by simply not recording the illicit transaction – a thing that police officers who indulge in corruption already do. If the ministry is serious about wanting to weed out corruption at roadblocks, they must at least require that cameras be mounted at every road block.
The police have a mandate to the public and the need for them to communicate easily with said public cannot be overstated. People need a way to keep tabs on the progress of investigations, submit anonymous tips and the police need a way to seek out witnesses and I cannot think of a better platform to use besides Facebook, Twitter and the internet in general. The fact that an organisation that has been defunct for the past 34 years has a better website than one that is currently operating is reprehensible. It does not take much to maintain and update a Facebook page and I cannot help but think a lot of police officers do have personal Facebook accounts which means it is not a question of competence but will.
The article in the state newspaper, briefly mentions technology at roadblocks, before unleashing platitudes about how Zim-Asset and how the blue print will stop corruption without going into specifics in a manner that has become typical with our authorities. It also surprisingly mentions the fact the ministry has fired a lot of police officers for taking part in corrupt activities. Thanks to lack of communication and the way in which our police force has managed to insulate itself from technology and the public, no one knows or believes this mostly because there are no specifics that the public can subject to scrutiny.
The police force is not an island unto itself and as an institution with public duty they must do more than buy a couple of Electronic Transaction Processors. We beg them to embrace more technology: a simple WordPress blog at national level perhaps. A Facebook page and a Twitter account will go a long way in staying in touch with the public.
Image via Bulawayo24