The police in Zimbabwe are not being paid well, if they are being paid at all. A couple of weeks ago I was told by a colleague that the police hadn’t been paid since September 2008 - he’d heard this from two different policemen. His comment to me was “Zimbabwean policeman have all become beggars”.
It was put to me differently a couple of days ago when another friend said she had been told by someone in the police that they had been told to “earn their own money”. What on earth does this mean? Are they being told to go out and find second jobs, or are they being told to “do what you need to do to survive”? Zimbabweans would probably assume that latter.
From the Zimbabwe Independent
The cash-strapped government this week failed to pay soldiers their January salaries on time amid reports that it has also ruled out paying them in foreign currency in the near future - a move that has resulted in morale in the army hitting rock bottom.
Reliable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that soldiers were due to be paid yesterday, but were advised by officers at army barracks throughout the country that government was unable to pay them this week. The sources said a senior army officer, Colonel Mbonisi Gatsheni, former defence forces spokesperson, on Wednesday told soldiers at KGVI barracks that they would not receive their salaries on time, but did not disclose the reasons for the delay. "We were initially supposed to get our salaries on Tuesday, but the payday was moved to Thursday. During the course of this week we were informed that the salaries were not deposited in our accounts," a source said. "Gatsheni told us that our salaries will be in local currency and this incensed us."
Both are recipes for disaster. They are an invitation to those capable of setting up gangs to do so. Soldiers who are not paid are worth something if they take their weapons with them into the 'private' sector. Police who are accustomed to setting up roadblocks to fleece travellers quickly become small groups capable of taking whatever they want. Those with access to forex will be able to buy whoever they want.
It won't take many either. As soon as some gangs start to appear other people will want to protect themselves from their depradations - which will mean more, bigger, better armed gangs. Who else will they turn to for protection? The police?
The civil and military structures in Zimbabwe have always seemed strong to me but there is only so much strain that they can bear. At some point the long, slow decline into anarchy becomes a collapse: metal fatigue may be invisible till the whole structure collapses.