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