Police traffic section BMW patrol vehicles have raised controversy in the city by ticketing commuter omnibus crews in the city centre, way out of the major highways.
The issue has become the talk of town among commuter omnibus drivers who view actions by the police as being a true reflection of BMWs’ colloquial name “the vehicle that steals money”, the title of a South African hit song.
Questions were raised as to why the traffic cops were operating in the central business district when they were mandated by the law to enforce traffic regulations on highways.
When enquiries were made on the matter, police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said they were still to establish what was happening.
“As for now the comment I can give you is that we are still trying to ascertain what is happening and make investigations on the matter,” said Bvudzijena.
NewsDay was shown more than 20 tickets issued by police using the patrol vehicles to different drivers who ply routes in the western suburbs and were arrested in the city for various traffic offences.
Most of the tickets NewsDay was shown had outside routes with highways leading out of Bulawayo to Gwanda ,Victoria Falls and Harare roads featuring prominently.
The offences ranged from being found with no re-test endorsed on driver’s licences, no fire extinguisher, off-route and failing to comply with police instructions.
Some drivers who spoke to the paper said actions by the traffic police revealed how desperate they were to raise money.
“Now their real motive is slowly coming out into the open. They should not claim to be enforcing traffic regulations.
“I was arrested near Mhlahlandlela Building and the police officer asked for my driver’s licence and I told him it had been taken by another team of traffic police. Before I could explain further, he started writing a ticket and asked me to pay $20 for failure to go for re-test without even seeing that licence,” said a driver who identified himself as Bongani.
He said after paying for the ticket, he was advised by a friend who had read the inscription, that it was written Harare Road.
“I was surprised but thought he had made a mistake. However when I arrived at Egodini (Basch Street bus terminus) I discovered that many others had tickets inscribed highways. Victoria Falls and Harare roads were prominent, yet the drivers were ticketed along Khami Road and all the fines are fixed at $20,” he said.
Another driver who refused to be identified said he was arrested near James Court at the intersection of Herbert Chitepo Street and 9th Avenue, but his ticket was written “Eastern Zvishavane Road”.
“To make matters worse, I found that the ticket had already been filled and he (the police officer) only inserted my name and the $20 fine. I was charged with going off-route. If you can have a look at all the tickets you will notice that they indicate that drivers were arrested plying highway routes,” he said.
NewsDay also discovered the tickets could have been emanating from one patrol team because all the tickets bore the names of Constable Nzingirai as the arresting officer and Sergeant Nangasira as the witness.
All the tickets were inscribed on the top corner “NHP” for National Highway Patrol. The commuter omnibus crews said the other problem was if they queried the anomaly more offences would be piled on them raising the fine to as much as $80.
Last week there was a standstill at Egodini, the rank where all commuter omnibuses park, after the police BMWs were stoned by members of the public. The BMWs had cordoned off all roads leading to the suburbs.
Riot police were called in to contain the situation.