THE unprecedented strike by commuter operators in Bulawayo on Monday was the clearest sign yet that police corruption has reached endemic levels.
Public transport operators parked their kombis and blocked vehicles assisting commuters, in a protest against perceived heavy-handedness of the police and harassment by cops who demand bribes everyday.
Stranded commuters were forced to walk as far as Nkulumane complex to the central business district (CBD) and other destinations around the city from Emganwini.
Children were not spared and a number missed lessons due to the chaos. Kombi drivers alleged that they have to pay fines are semi-permanent roadblocks along Siyephambili and Plumtree roads leading to the CBD. They alleged that they have to pay a minimum of $5 per trip and this makes their business unsustainable.
Last year, scores of passengers survived death after a commuter omnibus they were travelling in overturned after the driver tried to evade a roadblock along Bulawayo’s Khami Road.
Police allegedly threw spikes that deflated a tyre of the speeding vehicle in a bid to stop it and the consequences were dire. Some of the injured commuters spent several days in hospital and were unable to pay their bills.
The driver in his defence said he was trying to avoid paying a bribe at the roadblock. There are many stories that have been written about police corruption and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) commanders have repeatedly admitted that the force is riddled with draft.
However, as the events in Bulawayo demonstrated, the ZRP needs to move beyond just acknowledging that its officers are corrupt and weed out the bad apples.
The image of the police is now battered in the eyes of the public and once people lose confidence in the force there would resort to lawlessness. The strike on Monday disrupted business and prevented children from going to school and this was a wake-up call law and order.
Police roadblocks should be used to maintain law and order not to line up pockets of corrupt officers.