Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Officers in Karoi are have been criticized by human rights defenders for exposing a whistleblower who tipped them of a returnee from South Africa who avoided quarantine by sneaking into the country.
Human rights defenders have called on the police to behave professionally and protect people who give them tip-offs about illegal activities.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum programmes co-ordinator Musa Kika said international and human rights compliant practice stipulated that witnesses and whistleblowers must be protected.
“Not only is this to protect those who assist authorities to combat crime and unearth illegal activity, but it is also to encourage responsible citizenship by ensuring that citizens are vigilant and co-operate with authorities,” Kika said.
“Regrettably, as a country, we have not invested much in setting up infrastructure to protect witnesses and whistleblowers. We have no legislation addressing this protection at the moment. It is an area of law reform needing urgent attention.”
Kika added that whistleblowers suffered as a result of unwarranted exposure by the authorities, but still retained their right to sue the authorities and the individuals concerned when necessary.
Transparency International Zimbabwe executive director Muchaneta Mundopa concurred that whistleblowers played an important role in exposing corruption and other forms of wrongdoing and should be protected.
“exposing the identity of whistleblowers is irresponsible and can have tragic consequences,” Mundopa said.
“It is sad that with all the corruption that is happening in Zimbabwe, we still don’t have legal provisions for the protection of whistleblowers yet they are an integral tool in fighting and combatting corruption.
“We need to develop and adopt proper legislation to protect people who expose criminal activities.
“This is not the first time we have heard of law enforcement personnel revealing the identity of whistleblowers; it is really a cause of concern and if not regulated, will result in less people willing to expose acts of misconduct or corruption.”
Karoi residents recently raised the red flag after police exposed a whistleblower who had tipped them about four returnees from South Africa who escaped from Vuti Secondary School quarantine centre. One of them was arrested by villagers in Sanyati.
However, Mashonaland West police spokesperson Inspector Ian Kohwera said if there was anyone who was not happy over the conduct of the police, they were free to approach senior officers with their concerns.