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Zimbabwe traffic police showered with cynicism from motorists

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Traffic police officers in Zimbabwe are having unwitting weight lifters as they trudge along the country’s roads carrying sets of spikes which they use to stop errant motorists.

Such a scene has become a form of scornful attraction and ridicule as some people take pictures of them waiting to pounce on offending motorists while ignoring traffic logjams in some cases.

“I am sure they have developed muscles carrying those things around all day,” quipped a pedestrian as he walked past a group of officers who were wielding the spikes in the city center.

“I grew up knowing only of the spikes that were put on the road along Chancellor Avenue as a traffic barrier between 6 pm and 6 am but now we see them everywhere,” he added.

A policeman revealed to Xinhua Thursday that each officer even had the spikes done for 5 U.S. dollars with personal money.

Motorist Israel Mahachi said the zeal with which most traffic police officers had acquired the spikes had left many people suspicious.

“Why does a police officer use his or her own money to pay for something which should be provided by the employer, especially during these difficult times? Is it because it will be easy to recoup the expenses at roadblocks where corruption may take place?” Mahachi said.

The officers mount roadblocks checking for driver’s licenses and defects on motor vehicles. Others literally ambush motorists by hiding behind bushes and other obstacles and peep over like meerkats to see who goes against traffic signs - especially stop signs - and those who proceed against late amber and red lights.

Sometimes they are willing to negotiate for downward reviews of the fines they impose on offending motorists, only this time the money does not find its way into state coffers.

The use of spikes has also resulted in bad blood between the police and passengers. The passengers argue that while commuter omnibus drivers were at fault by speeding away, the police should not endanger lives by creating situations where the drivers could lose control of their vehicles and crash.

At least one person has died and several others injured over the years after both the police and municipal traffic officers threw tire shredding spikes in front of moving vehicles.

In some cases, riotous situations have been reported as angry motorists and passengers confront the spike wielding officers.

Government has justified the use of spikes by the police saying that they were law enforcement tools.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Obedingwa Mguni told Parliament this week that the spikes were used to control traffic, but it was illegal for officers to throw them in front of moving vehicles.

Traffic police officers have been accused of engaging in corrupt practices and some of them have been arraigned before the courts for either demanding bribes or fiddling with receipts.

Recently there was a public outcry on the number of police roadblocks, with the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority engaging the force over the matter as both local and foreign tourists were complaining about the country’s image.

Police have defended the high number of roadblocks saying that they were for security reasons and also served to reduce road carnage.



Stricter traffic fines schedule in Zimbabwe stirs outcry

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- A new schedule of higher traffic fines in Zimbabwe announced by Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa at the end of 2016 has come into effect following the signing into law of the Finance Act by President Robert Mugabe last week.

Fines for offences in Levels 1 to 3 have been increased by between 5 and 10 U.S. dollars, much to the chagrin of motorists who argue that the new schedule does not only fuel corruption but is also not affordable to many cash-strapped Zimbabweans.

Offences which used to attract a 5 dollar fine are now pegged at 10 dollars; those which were at 10 dollars are now at 15 dollars; while those which were at 20 dollars are now 30 dollars.

Level 1 is for offences such as failure to fasten seat belts; Level 2 includes offences such as failing to obey traffic signs; and Level 3 relates to more serious offences such as dangerous driving, driving a vehicle without headlights and overtaking in front of on-coming traffic.

Motorist Peter Chikuni blasted the increases saying that the reason given by Chinamasa that they were meant to reduce carnage on the roads was insincere because the government was trying to look for ways to generate revenue.

“The government wants to raise funds at all costs. Many Zimbabweans are living from hand to mouth because of the harsh economic environment, and now we have the minister imposing higher fines,” he lamented.

Relations between the police and the motoring public have not been rosy because of the numerous roadblocks the police have been mounting on the roads.

The issue of spot fines also remains contentious with the courts outlawing them and the police acknowledging that they are illegal but still proceeding to impose them.

Motorists who are not able to pay the spot fines risk having their vehicles impounded. 


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