San­ity at Tred­gold . . . as mayor be­moans mu­nic­i­pal po­lice’s lack of ar­rest­ing pow­ers

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page -

ALL that was re­quired was Chief Jus­tice Luke Mal­aba’s voice to awaken the au­thor­i­ties out of their slum­ber and re­move the nui­sance at the doorsteps of Tred­gold Build­ing in Bu­l­awayo where il­le­gal money chang­ers ( os­iphathe­leni) would plait their hair at park­ing bays and pave­ments as they go about their il­le­gal busi­ness with reck­less aban­don.

The­o­ries of con­nivance with au­thor­i­ties have been com­pounded and were not helped by the money chang­ers some of whom would openly brag that they were un­touch­ables as po­lice of­fi­cers would look at them with dis­mis­sive tol­er­ance.

Call it cor­rup­tion, yes it was, and some were known to be fronts for those sup­posed to bring san­ity and it per­haps ex­plain why both po­lice and city coun­cil au­thor­i­ties were blind to the pub­lic eye­sore and il­le­gal­ity that was hap­pen­ing right at the en­trance of the build­ing that is sup­posed to up­hold the le­gal statutes of the coun­try.

The build­ing is where the city’s mag­is­trate courts are housed and by na­ture of its place as part of an arm of the Govern­ment the Ju­di­ciary, must be revered and should not be seen to be the pot from where eco­nomic il­le­gal­i­ties of such dam­ag­ing rep­u­ta­tion are brewed and nur­tured.

It is a build­ing known to de­ter­mine and or redi­rect the lives of those who visit it as ac­cused per­sons, and as such pris­on­ers in prison garb with some in hand­cuffs and leg irons from Khami Max­i­mum Prison, Bu­l­awayo Prison (Grey Prison) and var­i­ous po­lice sta­tions are not an un­com­mon sight while prison of­fi­cers with guns are also as com­mon as lawyers at the build­ing.

Oth­ers will also be milling out­side the build­ing wear­ing white, long and lacy dresses, happy, for it is in the same build­ing that mar­riages are solem­nised and legally bro­ken. In short the build­ing is a hive of ac­tiv­ity and those that work in it are not the com­mon pub­lic. Their of­fices de­mand that they keep to them­selves, not that they are ex­tra ter­res­trial be­ings but their call of duty re­quires that they keep a dis­tance from the madding com­mon­ers who may want to in­flu­ence their work.

By the na­ture of the ac­tiv­i­ties that go on at the build­ing and the im­por­tant peo­ple that work there, it is easy for any­one to sug­gest that it, like any other court build­ings in the coun­try should have some aura of rev­er­ence but no, Tred­gold Build­ing had lost all the re­spect. It is ac­tu­ally more pop­u­lar than any other bus ter­mini in town.

Yes, it is a pub­lic build­ing but that should not take away its im­por­tance and the hon­our it should be ac­corded.

The build­ing that is ad­ja­cent Innscor food out­lets in Leopold Takawira Av­enue was not only home to il­le­gal money chang­ers who acted as if they owned the place, but on the other side that is Fort St, com­muter om­nibus touts would be shout­ing “Nku­lumane, Nketa Mun­y­oro, Em­gan­wini” and other sub­urbs along the route at the top of their voices.

They don’t do it in hushed tones to show some re­spect for the court pro­ceed­ings that will be go­ing on, they do it with reck­less aban­don and so much de­ri­sion as if to laugh off the courts and ev­ery­thing they rep­re­sent.

The build­ing and all that it stands for had failed to im­pose it­self and had un­til re­cently been treated less than the out­side of a night­club with ridicule and mock­ery that does not be­fit its so­cial stand­ing.

The pro­nun­ci­a­tion by CJ Mal­aba that it was “un­healthy” for such things to be car­ried out on the doorstep of the courts in­deed jolted the re­luc­tant au­thor­i­ties into ac­tion and they made easy the work of clear­ing the area al­though they have moved just a street away from the courts.

Ju­di­ciary Ser­vices Com­mis­sion Act­ing Sec­re­tary, Mr Wal­ter Chik­wanha said the Tred­gold Mag­is­trates’ Court like what the Chief Jus­tice had said, should not co-ex­ist with il­le­gal­ity.

“Out­side, there are a lot of il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties that are go­ing on where you have pi­rate taxis, ven­dors, il­le­gal money chang­ers and there is a lot of noise as well. Hav­ing such ac­tiv­i­ties hap­pen­ing out­side the court­room is re­ally un­prece­dented and ob­vi­ously un­ac­cept­able,” said Mr Chik­wanha.

He said the ef­fect of the dis­or­der was that peo­ple would not have con­fi­dence in the jus­tice sys­tem if il­le­gal ac­tiv­i­ties were al­lowed to take place at the doorstep of the courts.

“We are in dis­cus­sions and en­gage­ments with the Bu­l­awayo City Coun­cil for them to see how they can re­lo­cate some of the peo­ple so that there is some sem­blance of or­der out­side that court so that even peo­ple who come to that court have con­fi­dence in the sys­tem,” said Mr Chik­wanha.

Bu­l­awayo po­lice spokesper­son, Chief In­spec­tor Pre­cious Si­mango, con­curred that touts op­er­at­ing at il­le­gal pick-up points and il­le­gal for­eign cur­rency deal­ers at the Tred­gold Build­ing were a prob­lem.

She said touts and forex deal­ers who have en­sconced the Tred­gold Build­ing were a nui­sance adding that the com­plaints by the Ju­di­cial Ser­vice Com­mis­sion were quite gen­uine as both were dis­turb­ing court pro­ceed­ings tus­sling for cus­tomers at un­des­ig­nated pick-up points.

She said they have launched an op­er­a­tion code named “Flush out il­le­gal for­eign cur­rency deal­ers” that was aimed at bring­ing san­ity on the city’s streets and eas­ing con­ges­tion at the area around Tred­gold.

“We launched an op­er­a­tion code named ‘Flush out il­le­gal for­eign cur­rency deal­ers.’ The ar­rest of os­iphathe­leni will be an on­go­ing op­er­a­tion un­til there is san­ity. We want to sus­tain our main­te­nance of law and or­der in the city,” said Chief Insp Si­mango.

She, how­ever, urged a multi-sec­toral ap­proach to the prob­lem say­ing the po­lice, the city coun­cil and the courts should work to­gether to en­sure there was nor­malcy.

“As po­lice we will not sit back and watch that kind of law­less­ness. We will de­scend on both touts and com­muters who board the kom­bis at un­des­ig­nated pick-up points. We have been do­ing that to­gether with the city coun­cil. The courts should also help us by pass­ing de­ter­rent sen­tences on those con­victed,” she im­plored.

Bu­l­awayo Mayor Coun­cil­lor Solomon Mguni said they have no prob­lem deal­ing with pi­rate taxis and il­le­gal park­ing around Tred­gold. He said the hand­i­cap was that mu­nic­i­pal po­lice have no ar­rest­ing pow­ers and called on the pow­ers that be to es­tab­lish mu­nic­i­pal courts and give mu­nic­i­pal po­lice ar­rest­ing pow­ers.

“Our prob­lem is deal­ing with il­le­gal money chang­ers be­cause our mu­nic­i­pal po­lice have no ar­rest­ing pow­ers. If our po­lice had ar­rest­ing pow­ers and the city had mu­nic­i­pal courts to pros­e­cute of­fend­ers for block­ing streets and pave­ments, it would be eas­ier for us to en­force our by-laws. The an­swer here lies in giv­ing our metro po­lice all the pow­ers of a na­tional po­lice force and cre­ation of mu­nic­i­pal courts which will en­force our by-law. Oth­er­wise as it is, the money chang­ers, ven­dors, pi­rate taxi driv­ers will con­tinue play­ing cat and mouse with na­tional po­lice force to the detri­ment of pub­lic safety and de­cency,” said Clr Mguni.

“The kom­bis at Tred­gold are ex­ploit­ing the lax­ity of leg­isla­tive en­force­ment mech­a­nisms. As a city we are, how­ever, mak­ing a lot of in­ter­ven­tions as you know that Ego­dini ter­mi­nus is now closed for con­struc­tion and some of our ter­mini are now within the city con­fines. We are work­ing with the three com­pa­nies run­ning com­muter om­nibuses to urge their driv­ers to ob­serve des­ig­nated park­ing bays.

“We have prob­lems with kom­bis which are un­branded and don’t be­long to any of the three com­pa­nies, Tshova Mbaiwa, Bu­l­awayo City Tran­sit (BCT) and Bu­l­awayo United Pas­sen­ger Trans­port As­so­ci­a­tion (BUPTA). Those are the ones block­ing the Fort Street and L Takawira Av­enue.

“We have asked for na­tional po­lice to help our mu­nic­i­pal po­lice to en­force traf­fic rules at that place be­cause, like I said our mu­nic­i­pal po­lice have no ar­rest­ing pow­ers which ob­tain in other cities like Johannesburg, South Africa. That’s our ma­jor chal­lenge,” he added.

Clr Mguni said they were work­ing on clos­ing 6th Av­enue to out­go­ing traf­fic and make it a one way in­let street so that they open 3rd Av­enue as the one way out­go­ing street. This, they be­lieve will take com­muters fur­ther away from near Tred­gold Build­ing to down­town nearer to the out­let street. In that way, the Mayor says they will solve the prob­lem of com­muters park­ing along Fort Street and L Takawira Av­enue.

“As for ven­dors and money chang­ers, the na­tional po­lice must deal with that me­nace. The CJ had sug­gested that we close the sec­tion of Fort Street near Tred­gold. The chal­lenge with that is that we are talk­ing about the heart of the city. We fear that there will be a lot of con­ges­tion in the CBD if we were to do that. We have, how­ever, placed the is­sue be­fore our town plan­ning peo­ple for an opin­ion on the fea­si­bil­ity of such a mea­sure. But in the in­terim we are pur­su­ing the 3rd Av­enue and 6th Av­enue re­design ap­proach to see if it works to our ad­van­tage,” he added.

Clr Mguni also said they were lob­by­ing the pow­ers that be to give the cities their full pow­ers to en­force their by-laws so that they could deal with the me­nace of vend­ing, il­le­gal pick­ing and drop­ping of pas­sen­gers, block­ing of streets and pave­ments as well as un­reg­is­tered pi­rate trans­porters. That’s the way to go. As it is, our mu­nic­i­pal po­lice are a tooth­less bull­dog in so far as traf­fic en­force­ment is con­cerned. We can only is­sue tick­ets, clamp and tow. Ar­rest­ing and prose­cu­tion is for the po­lice and courts of law,” said the Bu­l­awayo Mayor.

Com­muter om­nibuses and touts load­ing com­muters just out­side Tred­gold Build­ing at the corner of Fort Street and Leopold Takawira Av­enue on Fri­day (Inset: Tred­gold Build­ing area along Leopold Takawira Av­enue af­ter op­er­a­tion “Flush out Il­le­gal For­eign Cur­rency Deal­ers”

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