Cabinet order on roadblocks refreshing

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Cabinet this week made a welcome intervention when it ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to reduce the number of roadblocks now littering our highways.

Travelling between cities had become a nightmare for motorists who are not only inconvenienced by the unnecessary stops, but are also forced to part with their hard-earned money by corrupt traffic police officers.

Besides the corruption, there have been unconfirmed reports that police are on a fundraising drive to buy new luxury vehicles, hence the influx of roadblocks.

On the 439km Harare-Bulawayo Highway alone, there are at least 13 police roadblocks daily where most motorists are forced to part with varying amounts of money.

Commuter transport operators have been the hardest hit, so much that a fortnight ago those plying the Harare-Norton route had to park their vehicles for a day in protest.

The drivers claimed they were losing in excess of $50 daily in bribes to police manning the roadblocks.

Some operators servicing Harares poor townships resorted to raising their fares from 50 cents to $2 so that they take home something after sharing their daily takings with the traffic police.

The situation on the roads was now so out of hand it warranted Cabinets intervention.

We are told the ZRP had also set up an anti-corruption committee to deal with the scourge affecting its ranks.

But despite the growing protests, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri had remained defiant, even to the point of being arrogant.

On February 23, Chihuri told a passout parade at Morris Depot that motorists complaining of inconvenience caused by the heavy presence of traffic police on the roads were misguided.

Let me state categorically that the reckless and misguided call to remove the traffic police from the roads is a non-starter, he thundered then.

It is in light of such arrogance by the head of the police that we find Cabinets intervention refreshing and timely.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara could not have said it better when he told Parliament on Wednesday that the heavy deployment on the roads was not necessary because Zimbabwe was not a police State.

It should also be clearly stated that the duty of police officers is not to fundraise for ZRPs operations, but to maintain law and order.

There is a more civil way of enforcing traffic laws which does not involve extortion and harassment of motorists. Instead of slapping motorists with spot fines, the police must ticket offenders and allow them to pay at the nearest police station or through the court system.

However, Cabinet must not just end by ordering police to reduce the number of roadblocks.
The co-ministers of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi and Theresa Makone, must ensure that Chihuri plays ball.

Mohadi should not be allowed to shirk his responsibility by arguing that his duty is to implement policy, not to interfere with police operations. That is nonsense. He has a job to do and should do it.