Citizen Safety and  Security: A National State of Emergency

The Citizens’ Cabinet notes, with great concern, the fast deteriorating security situation in the country. This has worryingly bred an unprecedented general sense of insecurity and fear among the citizenry following a spate of violent crimes throughout the country, and especially in the major cities of Harare and Bulawayo. Especially worrying are the cases of armed robbery now recorded almost on a daily basis. Unlike before, the police appear to have been overwhelmed by the criminal activities as the rate of arrests is very low. Indeed, armed criminals are now operating with total impunity leaving citizens terrorized. What is even worse is that in some notable cases, the very security agencies who swore to ensure public safety and security, are either directly involved or have abetted the commission of these crimes.  We take great exception to this, and implore the Government to take concrete action, beyond mere statements, to put an immediate end to this, and restore a sense of safety and security among citizens. Our communities are living in terror. And it is totally unacceptable for the government to abdicate it’s core responsibility to guarantee an environment of safety and security to citizens. More and more citizens are forced to come up with local measures to protect themselves through neighborhood response groups. This should not have to be the case, and we are very much alive to examples elsewhere where this slippery slope has birthed vigilante groups. Please Government, wake up and take action before it is too late! We call on the Government to  responsibly prioritize taxpayers’ money to adequately resource the police service to effectively respond to the current crisis. We deplore the current situation where our police officers are forced to operate without even the basic resources for transport and communication. It remains the sole responsibility of the Government, in terms of its binding social contract with citizens to provide an environment of safety and security. We demand that this matter gets the highest level of priority attention of the cabinet and our legislators. The minister of home affairs and the police commissioner must be urgently summoned before parliament to give answers to all these concerns.

Wetlands Masterplan, Human Settlements and Demolitions

We welcome the Government’s wetlands masterplan as revealed in its twentieth Post-Cabinet Press Briefing of the 22nd of June 2021. We have been a consistent voice on this matter alongside other environmental protection champions, most notably  Harare Wetlands Trust, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Advocates for Earth, and Youth Against Corruption. We will continue to campaign against the grabbing of wetlands and other public spaces by land barons in collusion with corrupt council officials. However, as the Government moves to implement its wetland policy and with regards to the current demolitions of so called illegal structures including vending stalls,   we implore the administration to always bear in mind that it is the poor and most vulnerable in our society who find themselves in the many informal settlements and trading places dotted around the country’s major urban centres. Government must therefore always put the rights and interests of these most disadvantaged sections of our population at the centre of its policy and practice. Our position is that  there must be no demolition of settlements or market stalls before alternative accommodation and trading spaces with adequate amenities have been put in place. People must always come first!

Covid-19 Spike and Schools Opening Deferment

We join teachers’ unions and other stakeholders in commending the Government for deferring the opening of schools by two weeks following a spike in Covid-19 cases in the country and beyond. Opening schools in the circumstances would have been suicidal and ill-advised. However, we put it on record that just postponing the opening of schools is not enough. It must be accompanied by concrete action to mitigate the spread of the pandemic when the schools eventually open. We therefore urge the Government to fully utilise this time to adequately prepare the public school system for the eventual reopening and or possible prolonged period of distance learning. This, however, is only achievable when public finances are in safe hands which brings us to our next item.

Auditor General’s Report and Public Finance Management

In our Weekly Bulletin of 18 June 2021, we alluded to the deplorable state of public finance management in the country and how it impinges on service delivery. This has become much more pertinent following the recent release of the Auditor General’s Report for the financial year ended 31 December 2019. The Report particularly reveals the deplorable state of financial management at parastatals citing the case of the state diamond company’s (ZCDC) failure to account for the use of over USD400 million, while also failing to account for diamond stocks amounting to USD146.3 million. This state of affairs is totally unacceptable in a context where the country desperately needs increased public revenues to adequately respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, long overdue expansion of vital infrastructure and other pressing needs. To this end, we reiterate our call for accountability and transparency in the management of public finances. The government must take advantage of the realignment of the Public Finance Management Act to strengthen the Public Finance Management system and implement the Auditor General’s recommendations.