HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsComment: Arrest of cops, tip of an iceberg

Comment: Arrest of cops, tip of an iceberg

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Police have announced 21 traffic cops were arrested since the beginning of the year, largely for taking bribes.

Given how commonplace bribe-taking by traffic police has become in Zimbabwe, 21 sounds a ridiculously conservative figure.

At the rate at which corruption takes place on Zimbabwean roads, it is inconceivable a serious clampdown on the vice could net less that several score per week.

It is common knowledge, and there is evidence in the form of an official report released not so long back by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT – Southern Africa), that Zimbabwean traffic police officers are the most corrupt in Sadc.

So while yesterday’s reports that 21 cops had been caught, convicted and some discharged or suspended for taking bribes, the development may have, instead of complimenting the police force, raised more eyebrows, particularly on the numbers of those arrested.

The report by ACT, a product of extensive research, found our traffic police corrupt to the extent the trust feared Zimbabwe could be losing substantial amounts of revenue to its rotten police force on the roads.

According to the trust, the damning report was sent to our Home Affairs ministry but, needless to say, no response was provided, in fact, the ministry did not have even the courtesy to acknowledge receipt!

The silence by our government on the report and the continuing – if not increasing – graft on our roads, have been viewed by analysts as tacit admission of guilt in complicity with the police force, and was an indictment of its corrupt tendencies.

The report revealed that transport business operators in Zimbabwe and Namibia were losing substantial income due to bribes paid by their drivers to corrupt traffic police officers.

The research noted that transactions between corrupt traffic police officers and drivers took place openly and without any shame.

The nature of the conversations between them showed that they knew each other and had been paying and receiving bribes for a long time.

Every day on our roads, commuters witness many incidents where traffic cops demand bribes in broad daylight, without any sign of fear or compunction.

In most cases the men and women in uniform pretend to play “human, merciful and understanding”, asking drivers to choose between paying a prescribed traffic fine (usually exaggerated and sometimes with threats the offence has no fine option and attracts jail) or paying a lesser amount for the officer’s drink!

For kombi drivers, the practice has become an acceptable part of their operational costs. So, upon being stopped at a roadblock, the conductor jumps off, a known amount of “fine” in hand and passes it on to the officers without getting any receipt.

The roadblocks are sometimes five kilometres apart and known to both commuters and bus crews as “tollgates”.

With corruption of such magnitude, it would be laughable to expect the public to accept our “professional” police have done a sterling job by arresting 21 traffic cops nationwide, over the past eight months for corruption.

But, it is a good beginning, if the clampdown is going to be pursued in earnest.

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