News that Cabinet is working on policy modalities to do away with spot fines is a relief to both motorists and the commuting public. Co-Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi said yesterday: “ . . . as Cabinet we want to come up with a policy to stop spot fines so that a person is given a ticket and they go to pay the fine at a police station or nearest court.” What a relief to the nation because spot fines are not only stoking corruption on the roads, but are also inconveniencing motorists as one could have their car impounded for failing to pay as little as a $10 fine.
Apart from facilitating the harassment of motorists by greedy and corrupt policemen, spot fines have turned the cops from law enforcement agents to some kind of revenue collecting officers and they seem to love it. This is evident in the zeal with which they try to stop motorists from passing by their roadblocks — at times less than a kilometre apart-— including the illegal and barbaric act of smashing windscreens.
The cops have become so greedy to the extent of demanding a fine or a bribe from motorists without such things as wheel spanners. They have to wring money out of every motorist they stop at all costs. It is almost impossible for one to go through five or six roadblocks without parting with some cash. Commuter omnibus operators were the hardest hit prompting some of them to demonstrate against the cops’ conduct on the roads.
But as expected, the police would not let go of their cash cow so easily. Senior Assistant Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena said the police would enforce heavier traffic regulations in Harare because there were “still problems on the roads”.
“We still have problems on the roads as some motorists are going through red robots and we are going to enforce strict traffic regulations without apologising,” said the senior cop.
What we find ominous in this statement is the desire to enforce “strict regulations” which may be used as a substitute for spot fines to facilitate corruption. What strict regulations would the police enforce that are outside the Road Traffic Act? We find Bvudzijena’s statement a sign of sour grapes as the money-spinning spot fine era is seemingly coming to an end. What the police hierarchy seems to be reluctant to acknowledge is the irrationality of some of their actions, including roadblocks that are less than a kilometre apart and the smashing of windscreens by their overzealous officers.
At least it is a relief that finally the powers-that-be have acknowledged the root of the officers’ corrupt tendencies on the roads — spot fines — and we hope that the policy being crafted will bury them for good.