Roadblocks war rages


Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi has defied a Cabinet directive to order the scaling-down of roadblocks which have seen a huge outcry from motorists and commuters countrywide, saying this was an operational issue under the ambit of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara on Wednesday told Parliament that Cabinet had tasked Mohadi to investigate the proliferation of police roadblocks where motorists, public transporters in particular, allege massive bribery by police officers.

Mutambara said Cabinet had been seized with the matter at its meeting on February 21 following a public outcry by motorists, especially commuter omnibus operators.

Asked on Thursday whether he would carry out the directive, Mohadi said: “I can’t comment on that.”

Pressed further to explain whether he would direct the police to reduce the roadblocks, Mohadi said: “That is an operational matter. It is the duty of the police to give orders to their issues. They are the ones who know what to do and how many officers should go where and do what. Ask the Commissioner-General, I deal with policy.”

Police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said he was not aware of communication over the matter from the ministers.

“As a government official, I cannot comment on the DPM’s statements, but as the police force we have a position,” said Bvudzijena.

Addressing graduands at a police passout parade last week, Chihuri declared police would continue to maintain a heavy presence on the roads to weed out errant drivers.

Two weeks ago, commuter omnibus drivers plying the Norton-Harare route pulled their vehicles off the road claiming spot fines and paying bribes were pushing them out of business.

They were later followed by their counterparts in Epworth and other parts of Harare who accused the law enforcement agents of mounting numerous roadblocks to solicit for bribes from them.

Aaron Tapfuma, chairman of the Zimbabwe National Commuter Omnibus Operators’ Organisation, said the exercise was pushing most of their members out of business.

lThese drvers claimed they were losing in excess of $50 daily in bribes to the police.

NewsDay is reliably informed each police station was given a target of raising $1 000 per week through fines, $1 500 per week for each traffic section unit and $3 000 for highway patrol units per week.

The money, according to police sources, is earmarked to service the force’s new fleet of vehicles and is not remitted to Treasury as is the norm.

Although Finance minister Tendai Biti could not be reached for comment over the force’s subversion of Treasury requirements yesterday, officials in the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs said the money was open to abuse since it was not subjected to an audit by government auditors.

Meanwhile, NewsDay has also established that traffic police now use a different ticket book for receipting cash for spot fines. Before the latest blitz, police used to penalise traffic offenders under Form Z.69 (J) which produced four copies — the first one for the clerk of court, the second for a person admitting guilt, the third for the station issuing the ticket and the fourth would remain in the ticket book as a fast copy. The fines were transmitted to courts for forwarding to Treasury.

But the new ticket book — labelled ZRP NTFC — has instructions that the first copy goes to the Police General Headquarters (PGHQ finance director), the second copy to the traffic offender, the third copy to national traffic and fourth copy remains in the ticket book.

Political analyst Charles Mangongera said “the story is bigger than the roadblocks”.

“The way the police have become independent is a cause for concern. Ideally you do not want a society that is dominated by the police. We are not a police State and Mutambara is right that the roadblocks should go,” Mangongera said.

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