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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Zimbabwe’s traffic police showered with cynicism from motorists 

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 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.

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