Behold Chihuri’s hilarious lie-detector graft buster

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Picture this: A police corruption crack unit turns up at a roadblock along Seke Road one busy midweek morning, summons a traffic cop, fixes some machine (a lie detector) on them and ask:

“How much money have you pocketed this morning from bribes?”

Does anyone imagine the policeman owning up and confessing: “Sir, I have collected $400 which has been recorded and $250 which I have pocketed. I am sorry, sir!”?

This is the kind of scenario that the police expect us to believe will do the miracle of ridding our roads of corruption.

According to police chief spokesman Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena, the machine will detect whether or not the answer the traffic cop gives is true or false and, if it is a lie, the police detail would be immediately suspended and investigated.

Bvudzijena said the police had decided to take this route because of an upsurge in corrupt elements within the force and because of the public outcry about the highway daylight robbery committed by the Traffic Section of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).

The ZRP, he says, does not have the lie-detecting machines themselves, nor do they have the expertise to operate them, but the scale of graft within the police had left the force with no option but to enlist foreign expertise and equipment to do the job.

Bvudzijena told a local weekly: “Previously the lie-detector machine was only being used for a sensitive unit in the police force — the mineral section. However, recently there has been a public outcry about the behaviour of our officers manning roadblocks and in response to that they will be undergoing tests in the coming months.”

He added: “Due to the non-availability of relevant machinery and expertise, we are going to hire foreign specialists who will undertake the process for us.”

So Zimbabweans should expect to see in the coming months, mass confessions of graft by members of the force, followed naturally by massive resignations and dismissals; or equally huge numbers of police details caught lying, getting suspended, investigated and fired. This is what we are being told will happen but, needless to say, nothing like that will happen.

Given the level of decay that has pervaded our force, the lie-detector solution is just another loud but empty burp.

The detector system is most likely to be itself corrupted long before it is deployed.

Bvudzijena says when, upon being tested for lies, an officer fails the test, investigations would be done “to determine the extent of the punitive action that will be meted out” (whatever that means).

The extent of corruption within the Traffic Section of the ZRP (not that they are the only dishonest and crooked members of the force) really points at the reality of the fact that it is extremely difficult to find a single cop who has manned a roadblock and not taken a bribe.

Stories that are told of police details having gone as far as making their own yellow sleeves, have left the reputation of the ZRP in a cesspit.

The recent curious move by the police chief, Augustine Chihuri, to intensify roadblocks, as if Zimbabwe was a police State, has not helped matters.

And after that, trying to bring in corrective measures in the form of confessions is really nothing, but a fairytale.

In any case, there is no known device which measures physiological or psychological activity capable of directly recording deception even though polygraph testing has been in existence for over 2 000 years.

The only way to effectively stop this rot is to stop forthwith the spot fines system. Traffic offenders should be issued with tickets and be asked to pay fines at police stations within seven days as was previously the case. The concept of spot fines is shrouded in mystery and compromises transparency.

For as long as police are allowed to collect spot fines, in cash, on the highways, they will never be able to stop stealing from both the motorist and government.

It goes without saying that a motorist will prefer to part with $10 which the traffic cop wants for his pocket than to pay $20 and be ticketed.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said the roadblocks had become “a place to enrich rogue police elements . . . fundraising methods by the police”. But given the reality of how our country is ruled, Mutambara’s words are just as effective as those of the robbed commuter bus driver.

The man who calls the shots, Chihuri, has this to say about the roadblocks: “There should not be any apology for this disposition. Let me state categorically that the reckless and misguided call to remove the traffic police from the roads is a non-starter.”

Sources from the police claim that each highway traffic patrol unit has a target to raise $3 000 per week, while police stations have to raise $1 000 per week through fines and $1 500 per week for each traffic section unit.

It makes sense, therefore, why you find up to five roadblocks along the 25-kilometre stretch between Chitungwiza and Harare.

Feedback: tangaic@newsday.co.zw