Transparency International Zimbabwe strongly disagrees with the decision made through Parliament to increase traffic fines from $10 and $20 to $100. In a country where between 2011 and 2014 reliable sources report that poverty, including urban poverty has risen from 73,2 in 2011 to approximately 90% in 2014
Where unemployment is also at a record high of 80% such a decision reflects either that neither Parliament nor the police have done their homework. In the alternative if they have done their homework the decision reflects a high level of insensitivity to the plight of the citizens. To introduce such unrealistic fines in an environment of poverty encourages lawlessness of both citizens and law enforcement.
Before this ill-timed and ill-informed decision was all over the radio on December 28 2015, many motoring citizens had at various points complained about the excessive patrols of traffic police on Zimbabwe’s roads making driving an exasperating experience. Some citizens have gone so far as to describe the behaviour of the traffic police as predatory as they await motorists with the viciousness and malice of a bird of prey. Many citizens who by virtue of being self –employed use their vehicles for running their businesses to put food on the table, educate their children and provide shelter are harassed at every street corner for real and imagined infractions by the police. It appears that being fully aware that the motoring public is barely able to pay a $10 and $20 fine the police are hedging their bets that with a higher fine threshold of $100, defaulting motorists will be willing to raise their bribes maybe to half of that or higher, making the police an accessory and if not the solicitors (which most citizens in the TIZ National Corruption Barometer 2012 and 2013 claim they are) are at the very least aiding and abetting corruption to borrow a legal doctrine from the English and American legal system.
Worse still, there is an erroneous belief by some traffic police that because they have been assigned to this role they have forensic scientific knowledge offences such as moving at traffic light controlled intersections.
They will brook no argument when it is evident their opinions are not based on scientific facts. One police man claimed as a scientific fact that motorists must know that traffic lights for vehicles on turning lanes can only accommodate two vehicles before turning amber then red.
This is highly debatable, because there is by observation evidence that all over the city traffic lights are not programmed to behave in the same predictable manner. Some will turn from red to green to amber in seconds, barely giving motorists a chance to assemble themselves into turning or take – off positions. While there are other traffic lights that will stay in one position for so long one has to wonder if it is in working order or not. Is it on the basis of such guesswork forensics that one should be made to pay $100?
Parliament and the Police are also aware of myriad of issues that contribute to bad driving and road carnage on our roads that need their equal attention. There is the decrepit state of our roads, the potholes that worsen with every rainy season putting motorists at risk, poor rain water drainage when it rains, lack of road markings at vital points (where some bad drivers take advantage by taking the lions’ share of the road to themselves). There is also foliage and trees covering road signs such as stop signs and give-way signs that are supposed to be in plain view to the motorists that municipalities should be regulating.
Topping this is the alleged corruption at VID that sells licences to motorists who are not competent to be on the road or allowing road unfit vehicles to be on the road. These and more issues are likely to be the greater contributors to road carnage not just an absent- minded motorists.
As anti-corruption advocates we are already concerned about the anecdotal evidence received that alleges that this traffic police corruption is petty only in the lower levels but forms a pyramid that involves high ranking police officials as payments go up the ladder, turning it into a grand corruption scam. This is made worse by the fact that all other auxiliary departments to law enforcement such as the VID and Court system will want to take advantage of this by also cashing-in on the hamstrung motorists.
In view of these concerns Transparency International Zimbabwe urges the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Parliament to reconsider this. Parliament in the contrary is requested to review whether the heavy handed presence of the police on the roads is leading to or has led to reduced traffic infractions and road carnage and factor in all other contributors to traffic offences and road carnage. – Transparency International Zimbabwe