Byo journalists engage ZRP to enhance working relations

Media representatives in Bulawayo met senior police officials in the city Tuesday to enhance working relations between the two parties, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The city’s senior police officials were led by Officer Commanding Bulawayo Province Commissioner Patton Mbangwa, who made a call to journalists to embrace ethics of investigative journalism and maintain active communication with the law enforcement agency to achieve national objectives of sustainable development, peace and harmony.

The meeting the first of its kind in Bulawayo, was part of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zimbabwe nationwide meetings to develop, enhance good working relations between the police and the media.

Since the national lockdown order came into effect last year in March, journalists have had run-ins with security members across the country while executing their duties.

“The generality of times we haven’t had any problems (in Bulawayo with the journalists). In terms of the press cards that you are talking about, we actually have an instruction from our headquarters that you should be allowed to use cards from previous year -2019. Be that as it may, you still find that some of our guys may be questioning you, why you are using expired cards but we are working on that,” he said.

Commissioner Mbangwa noted meeting with the journalists, was an “important day” because it  symbolised mutual understanding, cordial relationship  enjoyed by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the media.

“Media is supporting the police by raising public awareness, unearthing hidden cases and giving timeous updates to the public on matters of interest. Indeed during Covid-19 you flighted a lot and in some instances, people in town, those reports or pictures you would have flighted, also at times get to our bosses in Harare, obviously, you would know what happens … but it’s ok, that’s part of your mandate,” he joked.

“You did a lot in actually telling people that it is for their own good to sanitise, social distance, wear masks and the lot.”

The city’s top cop appreciated how police operations are well covered by the media, making the public appreciate their efforts in fulfilling their constitutional mandate. which is safeguarding lives and property.

“At one stage we wonder what the situation would be like if there was no media coverage, how would people be knowing what is happening. We are able to know right now that at such a place this happened. Some (events) are good, some are bad but it will also act as a deterrent to those who have time to either read the press or listen to the news you post,” he said.

Commissioner Mbangwa highlighted that ZRP’s involvement with the media was derived from the fact they wanted to engage widely to provide best service to the public.

“I urge all media houses to continue embracing ethics of investigative journalism and maintaining active communication with the police to achieve national objectives of sustainable development , peace and harmony.

“According to Bill Richardson, – ‘We cannot accomplish all that we need to do without working together.’ Another scholar Mattie Spanek says – ‘unity is strength, when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.’ Thank you very much for this kind gesture where you have invited us as the police to meet you and have a chat. A writer often said there is power in information,” Commissioner Mbangwa said.

Veteran journalist and board member of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe (VMCZ), Tapfuma Machakaire said it was crucial for good relations because the “media is a silent powerhouse in the governance matrix which complements government business.”

“This kind of meeting should have been held ideally in March last year just after the declaration of Covid-19 as a pandemic so that we share ideas and strategies, the do’s and don’ts for the media and have expectations from each other in the process of announcing measures to control spread Covid-19,” he said.

Machakaire pointed out that governments all over the globe have no choice but to use the media to disseminate information.

“Hence the recognition of media as an essential service alongside other essential services such as health and security,” said the veteran journalist.

MISA Zimbabwe Board Member, Pamenus Tuso, stressed the importance of working harmoniously between police and journalists.

“These interactions are meant to improve the working relations particularly during these Covid-19 induced challenges. We must complement each other to execute our duties,” he said.

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