President Mugabe warns cops over bribes

HARARE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday waded into the highly-emotive roadblocks saga when he warned traffic police officers against accepting bribes from motorists, a culture he said was militating against building and restoring confidence within the force.

This comes as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) collected $14 million from its unpopular roadblocks and arrested more than one million traffic offenders in the first six months of this year.

Speaking at the pass-out parade of 593 police graduands at Morris Depot yesterday, Mugabe reminded the officers that they had a duty to maintain and contribute to the excellent brand of the ZRP.

“I am told, while performing your duty, lots of temptation will visit you, especially police officers manning roadblocks.

“Such temptation, I am reliably informed, is blind to gender or age and is not regional or tribalistic. Be warned.

“You should also regard yourselves as beacons and embodiments of high morality,” said Mugabe.

Mugabe’s warning comes as there are growing calls for government to reduce the number of roadblocks by thousands of motorists who complain about the random and unrelenting harassment at roadblocks by police.

Apart from complaints of harassment by the motoring public, the many roadblocks have been blamed for driving away international tourists.

Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda and Tourism minister Walter Mzembi are among those who have been critical of the many roadblocks and so called spot checks.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently implored Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo to sort the issues of roadblocks and spot checks with Mzembi, but despite promising that they would be reduced, police has actually increased them.

Police have repeatedly argued for more punitive measures on the roads such as increasing spot fines with police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri in February calling for a steep hike to stem road crime and carnage.

Chihuri’s sentiments came after Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa in the 2017 budget hiked standard fines — which were last reviewed in February 2009 — by up to 100 percent with effect from January 1.

Chinamasa, like Chihuri, also argued that the penalty structure had been found to be ineffective, given the rising road fatalities that were largely attributed to the failure by motorists to observe road rules.

On the other hand, in February the High Court ruled that there was no law that allowed police to confiscate licences and impound vehicles of drivers who refused to pay spot fines.

This was after police had admitted that they had no right to force drivers to pay spot fines.

Ordinary Zimbabweans and motorists have also blamed rampant corruption at these roadblocks and spot checks with the Road Users Association threatening to file a complaint at the Constitutional Court.

Home Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni unwittingly exposed the corruption by traffic police officers recently when he told Parliament that he had received requests from MPs to facilitate their children’s transfers to the  police traffic department.