A British journalist recently came to Zimbabwe and wrote an ebullient article on the country, except there was one blight, the numerous police roadblocks, where him and his family had to part with money for minor or sometimes non-existent defects on their car.
Comment: NewsDay Editor
There are several such stories that have been narrated in the past, with a hotel reportedly offering a discount equivalent to the traffic fines its guests would have racked up on their way to its lodgings.
There is a realisation that the increasing number of roadblocks has a detrimental effect on tourism and there is need for urgent government intervention to address the matter.
Tourism players have often complained about this issue and the government so far has paid a deaf ear, oblivious to how this is affecting “brand Zimbabwe”.
There can be no justification whatsoever of having three or more police checkpoints on a stretch that is barely 100km long, and the question many have asked is: Is there a need for so many roadblocks?
So far, the police and Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo have posited unconvincing reasons on why there are so many roadblocks, with the latter, at some point, claiming this helped improve the security situation in the country.
On the contrary, the presence of so many police officers on the road projects an image of insecurity and high risk, which again does not auger well for Zimbabwe’s brand.
We are not saying police officers should leave the highways, but there are too many roadblocks on the roads and they are probably duplicating each other’s roles.
The government needs to strike a balance between policing and the need to increase tourist arrivals, because, as it stands, the two are working at cross-purposes.
Zimbabwe needs all the tourists it can get to improve its economy and its brand, which are in tatters and the government cannot afford to be this indifferent on a matter that keeps on being raised.
If the government is serious about luring tourists, then the Home Affairs and Tourism ministries must come up with a strategy on how the police should handle tourists in a way that will make them want to return to the country.
We are not saying tourists should be given the carte blanche to do as they please and violate the country’s traffic laws, rather we want the question of excessive police roadblocks addressed.
Tourism is more critical than ever, as it the only sector that can bring immediate returns to the economy and there is need to treat it carefully, failure to do that will be fatal for the country.