Two weeks ago, I travelled by public transport to and from Watsomba in Manicaland, and what really amazed me was the number of police roadblocks and patrol cars along the highways to say the least, the high number of the roadblocks was astounding.
This basically mirrored the situation in Harare where almost every street leading into the central business district has roadblocks.
Every commuter omnibus crew has to cough up some dollars to gain passage and proceed with their trips, failure of which they are detained at the roadblock until they play ball. In some cases, the police seem reluctant to issue tickets for traffic offences and insist on cash payment.
Whether or not the vehicle has a defect, or the driver has a licence and vehicles papers are in order seems not a point of conjecture anymore.
The exchange of money between the driver or conductor and the police officer is all that matters.
One can be forgiven for assuming that police roadblocks and tollgates have seamlessly merged into each other to such a point that they have become indistinguishable.
Just by looking at the number of traffic police details on the highways, it is difficult to imagine that we still witness traffic accidents and their macabre harvest of lives and destruction of human bodies and vehicles on our roads.
Ideally, one can be forgiven for supposing that the increase in the number of police details on the roads should translate into fewer accidents on the roads, especially those attributed to unroadworthy vehicles, unlicensed drivers and those driving under the influence of alcohol.
Statistics show that in 2010, 92 people were killed while 1 090 others were injured in 1 119 road accidents recorded during the Christmas and New Year holidays. About 182 drivers were arrested for drunken driving, while 2 909 defective vehicles were impounded.
Most accidents were attributed to speeding, misjudgment, lack of attention and drunken driving.
By December 29 last year, 82 people had died and 671 people were injured in 899 accidents recorded during the same period.
Commuters are agreed that most commuter omnibus drivers in whose hands they entrust their lives every day either drive under the influence of alcohol, are unlicensed, reckless on the road and dont have qualms about driving while using their mobile phones.
And these drivers pass through police roadblocks every day where they pay various amounts of money before proceeding.
It is alarming that a lot of times, and commuters will agree to this, police officers at roadblocks hardly check the roadworthiness of the vehicle or the suitability of the driver, but simply receive money and allow the vehicles to proceed with their trips.
In this context, it is not surprising that we have so many faulty vehicles plying our roads.
What this basically means is that roadblocks have been reduced into some kind of tollgates through which the police do some kind of fundraising.
These days we hardly see police impounding unroadworthy vehicles or arresting unlicensed drivers at roadblocks and what this means is that transporters operating unroadworthy commuter omnibuses are doing so with the blessing of the police.
Police only seem to act when they carry out some kind of operation now and again during which they impound vehicles, otherwise its always business as usual.
In December last year, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri challenged public transporters to observe the sanctity of life by ensuring that vehicles were roadworthy.
This challenge also has to be thrown back to the police to observe that human life is sacrosanct by showing no mercy through the arrest of drivers of unroadworthy buses and the impounding of such buses.
If it means the bus has to be emptied at the roadblock and the driver arrested on the spot, then so be it. This is the only way Chihuris sentiments can be taken seriously. Otherwise, life goes on as usual.
I wonder how a police officer who receives money from the driver of a faulty bus is able to sleep when that bus is involved in an accident and kills people.
Whatever happened to human conscience?
In this context, the traffic police ought to be ashamed! Collecting money at the expense of human lives cannot be acceptable in whatever circumstances.