Three hundred and fifty newly deployed Beitbridge police officers are living in offices at the border town’s main station with their bosses appealing to the community for accommodation.
Accommodation in police camps is still occupied by families of transferred officers who are yet to make arrangements to move them due to financial constraints.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has not assisted with the transportation of transferred officers’ property and no explanation has been given.
“We are expected to find our own transport but if the government has no money where are we expected to find it?” asked an affected officer.
This comes amid revelations that there was no proper handover-takeover between outgoing and incoming cops. New policemen are not familiar with faces on the wanted list and residents feared the development would see the return of criminals who fled the area when police that knew them left.
Home Affairs minister Ignatious Chombo was not picking his phone yesterday when comment was sought about the situation in Beitbridge.
There is no stationery, furniture and other equipment like computers or typewriters, the transferred police officers took the resources with them.
“We took our computers, chairs and took other things we sourced from well-wishers because we were willing to work,” said one officer.
He said the government was busy buying spy cameras instead of furniture or paying the workers on time. Government recently bought 196 cameras that were installed at the border post to monitor officers accused of lining their pockets at the expense of the State coffers.
Sources close to the police said there was mayhem at the station with the newcomers at sea at every front. “They sleep in humiliating conditions like people in a waiting room and when they go to work they have no stationery which is frustrating,” said the sources.
Villagers wishing to clear cattle for slaughter complained of slow service and being asked to come the next day. A family whose relative died in suspicious circumstances said police did not have forms to request a postmortem.
People with a variety of issues that need police attention complained of long waiting hours at the station where the situation showed confusion.
Passages at Beitbridge Central Police Station have been turned into bedrooms while some senior officers sleep in offices.
The station resembles an airport, train station or a bus terminal departure lounge with hundreds of bags, mostly big shopping bags commonly referred to as “Tshangani” bags popular with cross-border shoppers, lying everywhere.
“We are living at the police station and looking for accommodation. We are stranded because we don’t have cash, we were not prepared for this,” said one policeman from Harare.
Hunger stalks many officers who are still to find their feet in the border town. Last week the administration at Beitbridge police station sent an SOS to local community leaders appealing for 350 rooms to rent.
The appeal was also sent to churches asking those who may have rooms to let to contact the police administration.
The ZRP a fortnight ago transferred its entire force of over 600 officers from Beitbridge in a major shake-up suspected to have been triggered by their alleged involvement in corrupt activities and failure to contain the July 1 riots involving cross-border traders.
It is understood police bosses were not amused when their intelligence failed to get wind of the looming demonstrations where cross-border traders torched a Zimra warehouse in protest against a ban on imports of basic goods from South Africa.
“If it was a punishment for those officers, it is affecting us the replacements as well,” said the police officer. He said all new arrivals had gone through polygraph tests and those who failed would be sent back to their previous stations.
An unknown number of officers frustrated by the blanket transfers had opted out of the force, saying they could not tolerate the child’s play.
“Now there have been riots in Harare, so are they going to transfer police from Harare? This decision was bad,” said one officer. standard