Police rob motorists in broad daylight

Moses Tshimukeni Mahlangu

ONE is appalled at the audacity that policemen and women at roadblocks extort money from motorists.

Once upon a time, roadblocks were meant to check and enforce vehicle roadworthiness. Nowadays policemen and women are there to check and enforce drivers worthiness in terms of cash and the ability to fork out.

Roadblocks that we witness these days, in the main, have no road blockings in the form of drums and the blocking poles, the patrolling extortionists use cars with no registration numbers and these cars are usually parked away from the “scene of the crime”.

Suspicious cars are not stopped.

Alternatively, if another motorist approaches the “scene of crime” while the looting is on, he/she is quickly signalled to proceed.

Whether the said roadblocks are authorised or not is anyone’s guess.

One would not be blamed to suggest that drums and poles for mounting a proper roadblock are no longer used, to avoid queries from authorities, alternatively, it is a syndicate strategy to enable a quick run in case things go wrong.

The same reasons could be advanced for using cars without number plates and hiding them at some unnoticeable sport. Is it still an offence to drive a car without number plates? And if so what lesson are the law enforcing agents teaching members of the public? Who is going to police the police?

One day I was stopped at a socalled roadblock and was asked to pay a certain amount for an alleged offence.

I told the detail that I had only $5 in my pocket and he quipped “mari yako ayinyoreki” meaning he was unable to write that amount.

The implication of this assertion was either, it was only fit for pocketing or the $5 was beyond the minimum amount of ticketable offences.

Another intriguing problem is that of spot fines. In many countries spot fines are slapped on foreigners, who are in transit and not citizens.

Each time you try to reason with patrol officers, they will tell you they are issued with spot fine receipt books only.

An inquisitive motorist may go on to suggest that police that interface with motorists should be corrective in the first instance, as opposed to the punitive approach.

The answer is usually very candid “we are here on a target, we are expected to raise a certain figure on spot fines per day”.

One is baffled as to the intention of roadblocks – is it to raise funds or to make sure cars travelling on our roads are road worthy? Cognisant of the meagre salaries paid to civil servants, one is pardoned to allege that these comrades are enabled to supplement their meagre salaries with road extortions.

It would appear the norm is that as long as the comrades of the road do not tamper with State power, they can do anything to amass wealth and no one cares.

The only taboo in my beloved country is pointing a finger at State power. You stay clear of this unpardonable sin, the sky becomes the limit to what one could do under the sun.

Vehicular population at police camps has tremendously grown, contrary to civil servants low salary levels.

One cannot rule out the syndicate matrix in these underhand dealings.

A good example was when the issue of spot fines was debated in Parliament. Secondly, it was when Geshom Pasi of Zimra suggested that all traffic proceeds be remitted to the Finance ministry.

In both cases, Police high echelons breathed fire in support of spot fines and the need to keep such funds. Imagine if every department of government that generates funds would demand the same concession!

The issue at stake is dual, firstly it is about accountability and secondly making sure the boys’ meagre salaries are supplemented, lest they join the hungry protestors.

Moses Tsimukeni Mahlangu is the general-secretary for Zimbabwe Urban Councils Workers’ Union. He is a labour consultant and arbitrator.

Feedback: E-mail: mosietshimu@gmail.com