Reports about Zimbabwe Republic Police officers mounting fake roadblocks in Harare and elsewhere around the country using counterfeit receipt books (Admission of Guilt Form Z69J) to fleece unsuspecting motorists are a worrying trend, hence drastic action must be taken to stem the tide.
These reports, however, confirm what the public and the Press have always condemned. But each time an incident of that nature was reported, the police have always accused them of misrepresenting facts.
It appears that the police force is in denial as each time police officers’ shenanigans are exposed, the authorities always accuse the Press of having ulterior motives.
Yet, the recent events show there is greater need to deal with the corruption scourge eating the very fabric of what the force stands for given what happened on Wednesday this week where two officers mounted an unsanctioned roadblock overcharging unsuspecting motorists.
While police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commisioner Charity Charamba has indicated that all corrupt elements will be dealt with, corruption within the police force remains a cause for concern.
Of major significance here is that the Kuwadzana incident lends credence to calls for the banning of spot fines as they create an opportunity for bribery.
Paying fines at a police station, as was the norm before, helps plug all the loopholes in the system and ensures that no money paid by motorists filters out of the system into some individuals’ pockets. This should be part of the national anti-corruption crusade if it is really genuine.
We believe that the latest incident is just a tip of the iceberg and such cases are obviously widespread. This means paying lip service to fighting corruption will not cut it. The police must lead by example. It is unfair that they should use the authority that the State powers vested in them to rip off ordinary people while lining their pockets. This has to come to a stop.
Such incidents continue to feed the negative perception that many people have of the police. They are no longer viewed as a professional law enforcement agency, but merely a bunch of crooked and thieving individuals concerned more about making money than the safety of people on the roads.
It is, therefore, crucial for the police to let people know how they can tell a genuine roadblock from a fake one and help curb cases of sleaze.
How does it happen that any police officer desperate for money can just put on his uniform, get a receipt book and start flagging down cars on the road pretending to be manning a roadblock?
Although the police seem to have taken stern measures against some of the few rotten apples in the basket, what is needed is a holistic approach that should put to an end, once and for all, this wayward behaviour.
There is need for government to step in to protect citizens who have become victims of some of these marauding agents who have forgotten that their duty is to protect and serve the people they are now robbing.
Such developments are worrisome, to say the least. Who will protect the people if the police are now involved in scandals?
We call on government to adopt new laws that will allow stiffer penalties on errant police officers caught on the other side of the rules.