THE Government yesterday said it is only standard roadblocks that will be reduced to only four per province but the numerous spot checks by police within cities and towns will remain in place, dampening celebrations by motorists and public transport operators who thought they would now get a reprieve from harassment by law enforcement agents.
A standard roadblock has a Police Ahead sign, drums and flashing lights.
Home Affairs deputy Minister Cde Obedingwa Mguni said it is the standard roadblocks that have been reduced to four per province and what motorists called roadblocks along routes leading to city centres or growth points were in fact spot checks.
Giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development in Harare on Monday, the Minister of Home Affairs Dr Ignatius Chombo, who was accompanied by his deputy Cde Mguni, said as from next week the police would unveil at least four standard roadblocks per province.
HOME Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo yesterday told Parliament that government had ordered police to reduce the number of roadblocks to 40 countrywide, which translates to four per province, following a public outcry from motorists and tourists, who described the numerous vehicle checkpoints as a great inconvenience.
Chombo made the remarks after he and his deputy, Obedingwa Mguni, appeared before the Dexter Nduna-led Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs to speak on roadblocks, where they also disclosed that they would next month commission the integrated electronic traffic system to electronically identify defective vehicles and traffic offenders.
“Government has told the Commissioner-General of Police, Augustine Chihuri, to remove all unnecessary roadblocks and mount necessary ones,” Chombo said. “Roadblocks will be reduced to only 40 nationally before computerisation, and it means there will be four roadblocks per province unless there is a security threat or serious crime.”
Motorists could still be losing cash to a syndicate of bogus cops that have been mounting illegal roadblocks using spikes in Harare, as some of the culprits are still on the run and police are yet to recover the spikes and deposit fine books they are using in committing the offences.
The syndicate involves former police officers who were discharged from the force for indiscipline and dishonesty, and civilians. Police have so far arrested seven suspects in connection with impersonating police officers or alternatively possessing articles for criminal use in recent weeks.
Five of them – four being former cops and a footballer – appeared in court last week, while two more former cops yesterday appeared before Ms Barbra Chimboza.
Carrington Marasha and Farai Mupundumani are facing charges of attempted armed robbery and impersonating a police officer.
They were remanded in custody and were advised to approach the High Court for bail application. Their alleged accomplice, Munyaradzi Tivaringe, alias Goliath, is still at large.
THERE was drama and chaos at Bellevue along Masiyephambili Road in Bulawayo yesterday when some Nkulumane Police Station officers allegedly impounded a kombi over an outstanding $3 bribe, before ramming into a signpost.
The driver of the kombi, Tavonga Moyo, said he arrived at a roadblock at Bellevue along Masiyephambili Road and was signalled to stop his Toyota vehicle, registration number ACQ 4455.
“I was still talking to the other female officer when suddenly three police officers jumped into my kombi to impound it, accusing me of failing to pay a $3 bribe which I did not pay on Wednesday,” he alleged.
“A police sergeant nicknamed Mlomobomvu, from Nkulumane, drove the kombi intending to take it to the police station, while I sat on the passenger seat.’’
He said the officer was speeding and lost control of the vehicle before ramming into a signpost. Moyo said the other officers called their colleagues from Nkulumane Police Station to attend the scene.
But other kombi drivers who came to the scene resisted and called police officers from Drill Hall traffic section to attend to the scene to record statements.
THE tourism sector is reportedly suffering huge losses owing to overzealous manner at which some Zimbabwe Republic Police officers are manning roadblocks along the countries roads, abusing both motorists and the law.
Ross Kennedy, chief executive of Africa Albida Tourism and the former chairman of the African Travel and Tourism Association, said the country was now becoming difficult to sell as a self-drive destination and countries such as Germany were now shunning Zimbabwe as a safe destination.
Kennedy said the roadblock situation had become worse despite assurances by the Tourism ministry that things would get better. Kennedy said he was encouraged by Press reports that Tourism minister Walter Mzembi was engaging the Home Affairs ministry to ensure that the situation on the country’s roads was improved.
This only reflects the cost of doing business in Zimbabwe, which is being pushed upwards by three main drivers — poor laws, corruption and congested road blocks — which has turned the life of road users into a nightmare and owning a vehicle into a crime. Not only are tourists being affected, but locals as well, including tobacco farmer Evan Nyakuchera, who said the cost of transporting his 20 bales of tobacco from Karoi to Harare went up by nearly 50% owing to “problematic” roadblocks along the way.
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe (pictured), two weeks ago, reportedly ordered the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to reduce the number of roadblocks, saying they were becoming an inconvenience to motorists and the travelling public.
Home Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni made the revelations in Parliament yesterday.
“Two weeks ago, President Mugabe chaired a meeting that resolved that roadblocks must be reduced,” Mguni said. “Therefore, we made a plan to reduce them, but we said it is not easy to balance quality service versus compliance because we need not loosen our security when giving services.”
This comes a week after Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa ordered Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo to urgently engage his Tourism counterpart, Walter Mzembi to consider scaling down on roadblocks following complaints from tourists.
POLICE have sent 500 electronic traffic gadgets to stations countrywide in a move meant to do away with spot fines and fight corruption.
The gadgets will detect offences and issue out invoices to be paid later at the police station in a move which is likely to be welcomed by motorists who have complained of abuse at the hands of some police officers at roadblocks.
Home Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Obedingwa Mguni, who last week indicated that police would do away with receipt books, said the gadgets have already been dispatched to traffic stations.
“Presently 500 gadgets which will actually raise the invoices have been deployed into the country and into traffic stations. From now on we will never see a manually written invoice because that was giving us a problem.
THE issue of spot fines will soon be a thing of the past as police are now implementing new technologies to deal with offending motorists, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Obedingwa Mguni has said.
He told Parliament on Wednesday that police would soon be doing away with receipt books at road blocks.
Cde Mguni was responding to a question by Bulawayo Metropolitan MP Dorothy Ndlovu who had asked why motorists are detained by police demanding spot fines, yet motorists would not be carrying cash and police do not have swipe machines.
“There is a new company which has come to change the way in which the police are operating so that they do not carry any receipt books. We now have a machine which will enable a vehicle’s number plates to be scanned.
“The person would state the owner of the vehicle, a slip will be printed to enable the person even though he does not have cash on him to approach the nearest police camp and pay,” said Cde Mguni.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry minister Walter Mzembi is set to take on his Home Affairs counterpart, Ignatius Chombo, in Cabinet on the issue of police’s heavy presence on the country’s roads, which he says is deterring tourists from visiting the country.
A boisterous Mzembi yesterday promised that the issue would be dealt with. “The concern is about excessive presence of police,” he said. “I am back. The boy is back in town. The issue will be dealt with.”
A visitor exit survey (VES) done by the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat), released in February this year, said harassment by the police constituted the highest percentage of reasons why leaving tourists would not recommend the country to potential visitors at 43,2%.
This was followed by harassment by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officers at 14,7% and harassment by Immigration was at 8,7%.
“We will mainstream it through the Cabinet. Whatever what the survey (VES) is talking about must not be seen as an affront,” Mzembi said.
VES surveyed 38 680 foreign tourists over a 12-month period between 2015 and November 2016.
THE Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) is ratcheting up pressure on the Presidency to intervene and stop endless roadblocks mounted by traffic cops on major highways, scaring away international tourists and crippling the hospitality industry.
The authority has appealed to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is in charge of the economic cluster, to bring back order on Zimbabwe’s highways, in the wake of revelations that the tourism industry is starting to feel the effects of the numerous roadblocks mounted by officers from the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP).
In the past year, at least three major tourism industry players have collapsed, raising concerns in an industry that generates about US$1 billion for the country every year.
The tourism and hospitality industry is among four key sectors expected to drive economic recovery under the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Soci-Economic Transformation economic blue-print.
Roadblocks, described by ZTA to be among many factors frustrating tourism growth, also affect commerce by causing unnecessary delays along transport corridors.
HOME Affairs deputy minister Obedingwa Mguni sees nothing wrong with reports of police officers urinating and or defecating in public places, particularly at roadblocks, arguing there is no enabling Act to criminalise the practice.
Reports abound that police officers are forced to use the bush due to lack of ablution facilities at the countless roadblocks they mount on the country’s roads and Mguni told Senators on Thursday the act could be criminalised as it was not illegal.
Ironically, police are known to arrest people who urinate in public, demanding a $5 fine for the offence, and imbibers – particularly those who frequent bottle stores – have tales to tell of their encounters after being caught urinating.
“According to the Constitution, police are bringing peace, investigating crime, preventing crimes and they are also doing it on behalf of every ministry that is in Zimbabwe. So, if there is an Act that is being provided by the ministry who is heading the environment saying no one should urinate behind a tree, police will enforce that one.
“That is their duty and we do not enforce anything which is not lawful and where we do not have an Act to act upon it. We will act only when there is an Act that has been passed and is given to us to make the people act lawfully. Therefore, if urinating behind the tree is now illegal, then the police will be informed by the Minister of Environment,” Mguni told Senators.
Harare’s Mayor has condemned the ludicrous number of police roadblocks in Harare and the terrible state of the roads as being painful to residents, and a deterrent to tourism. While presenting his second State Of The City address last month, Manyenyeni described the efforts between the ZRP and council’s Trafficable Roads Team as disjointed.
“Allow me to share the grief of the excessive number of roadblocks mounted by the ZRP in the city. This is one of the most annoying aspects of living in Harare. The pain of the roadblocks is widely shared in our communities and has been exported by visitors to further de-market and derail tourism in the city and in the country,” he said.
Motorists in Harare complain that despite their best efforts to comply they are forced to pay fines at the steadily increasing number of police stops popping up at almost every turn. It is becoming so bad that at times traffic fines can exceed the already high costs of running and maintaining a vehicle. What’s more, motorists can be detained for hours while police try to extort cash from them. This keeps them away from work, and paying fines after long waits carries direct and indirect economic consequences for the individual and the economy at large.
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