Disgruntled tobacco farmers on Thursday accused the police of demanding bribes from transporters to assist them jump queues.
When NewsDay visited Boka and Tobacco Sales Floors in Harare on Thursday morning, hundreds of vehicles laden with tobacco bales were forming long, snaking queues around the crowded auction floors.
Indeed policemen in uniform were seen driving some of the vehicles, apparently using their official positions to jump queues after which, sources said, they would receive payment.
Angry farmers said the policemen reportedly demanded bribes ranging from $40 per vehicle.
However, police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau denied the allegations.
“We have not yet received any reports on that so we cannot act before we get a report,” Sabau said.
Several farmers and transporters told NewsDay they had queued for nearly two weeks without being served at the floors.
They blamed this on the corruption involving police officers jumping queues on behalf of those who had bribed them.
One of the transporters, Promise Mbidzo, said:
“It’s painful that we have been here for two weeks but our vehicle has not moved an inch. There are police officers and soldiers who come here every night and pretend as if they are controlling queues yet they openly demand $40 and then jump queues on behalf of those that would have paid them.
“This is corruption at its worst and something has to be done about it.”
The farmers allegedly wrote a letter to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, urging him to urgently investigate the matter.
But Sabau on Thursday said they had not yet received the letter.
Part of the letter, a copy of which is in NewsDay’s possession reads:
“These members of the uniformed forces are abusing their authority and uniforms by jumping the queue and making at least three trips per week while other transporters are taking over a week to be offloaded (sic).
“Apart from prejudicing other transporters, farmers who spend more than a week waiting to sell their tobacco are being subjected to hunger and unhealthy conditions as a result. These uniformed members are tarnishing the image of the security forces.”