'Police treated like dogs'

COMMISSIONER-GENERAL of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Augustine Chihuri has said the police force is being treated like dogs by most parastatals that use them to collect money for free.

Speaking to the Parliament’s portfolio committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development recently, Chihuri said the police are being used to enrich parastatals.

“Zinara, if you go to any tollgate right now you find the police but when they (Zinara) get their money they will shut the door on the police. ZBC is being helped by the police for their licences but when they collect their money they disappear. The police are being treated like dogs yabata tsuro inoti kana yabikwa yonzi get out (which does not eat its kill).

“I am not saying police should not work, they must fulfil their duties for the good of our country. Everyone sees our mistakes because we work with people all the time,” Chihuri said.

Chihuri’s sentiments come at a time when motorists have expressed anger over numerous roadblocks that police set up on the streets of the capital and around the country.

At most of these roadblocks, police officers have been accused of demanding bribes.

Zimbabwean police recently promised to decrease the number of roadblocks following complaints lodged by parliamentarians, tourism operators and motorists.

It has become common to come across at least two roadblocks on a 10-kilometre stretch of road, some without a clearly defined purpose or justification.

Social movements like #ThisFlag and #Tajamuka have raised the red flag over the manner police officers manning roadblocks demand bribes.

These corruption allegations are partly some of the reasons that contributed to the protests that rocked the country the better part of last year.

An anti-corruption organisation — Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) has also said the police and the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) that issues driver’s licences were among the most corrupt institutions in the country.
Recently, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo said Zimbabwe has begun trials to computerise police roadblocks in a bid to reduce the number of security checkpoints on the country’s roads.

While there were efforts to deal with corruption and the number of roadblocks, Chihuri shocked the nation last week when he actually made a suggestion for the government to hike spot fines, which have been a bone of contention for a long time now.

Chihuri claimed the hike would help to stop road crime, further defending spikes as legal.

“Yes spikes are legal . . . spot fines are also legal. People forget that as police we need to be protected from criminals.”
Chihuri added that last year alone 36 police officers were injured while three of them died after being hit by motorists who were trying to escape from the hands of the law enforcement agents.

This comes after Chihuri, Chombo and acting Attorney-General Prince Machaya in November last year unanimously conceded that it was unconstitutional for traffic police officers to detain and demand payment of spot fines from motorists at roadblocks.

The trio made the concession in response to a High Court application filed by a Harare motorist, Andrew Makunura, who was ordered to pay a spot fine for not having a radio listener’s licence, but went on to file a constitutional challenge against payment of spot fines.

Last year, 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.
—Blessings Mashaya

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