Roadblocks: Don’t celebrate just yet
STAKEHOLDERS in the transport sector maintain that the Zimbabwe Republic Police, which announced that it would this week unveil an electronic traffic management system to reduce standard roadblocks to at least four per province, is grandstanding.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo last week told the House of Assembly that he had directed Police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri to remove all unnecessary roadblocks.
Dr Chombo said the police would introduce an electronic traffic management system that would integrate all transport stakeholders like the Police, Vehicle Inspection Department, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration, Road Motor Transport, and the Central Vehicle Registry.
He said the number of roadblocks would only be raised if there were security concerns.
Dr Chombo said Government’s raft of measures was in response to concerns by tourist sand motorists over the high police presence on the roads.
Road users, among them tourists, are being inconvenienced by the numerous roadblocks that are often mounted a few kilometres apart.
Dr Chombo explained that standard roadblocks were different from spot checks, and that some roadblocks on highways would have been requested by State agencies like the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation to collect radio listener licences, or by the VID to check vehicles’ road worthiness.
But road users fear that they will simply get more of the same despite Dr Chombo’s pronouncements.
Mr Ngoni Katsvairo, secretary-general of the Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators, said a number of grey areas regarding traffic policing must be addressed first before issues to do with roadblocks were raised.
“The number of roadblocks is not really an issue — the challenge is on how effective and strategic these roadblocks are. There are other areas that need to be addressed first. It is known that the police are fond of making pronouncements that are never followed up on,” Mr Katsvairo claimed.
“It will not help us to have as many roadblocks when defective vehicles are passing through them on a daily basis. As long as they have been issued with tickets, drunken drivers and unlicensed drivers, overloaded and unfit vehicles are passing through the many roadblocks in broad daylight.”
Mr Katsvairo spoke about the practicality of having four roadblocks per province.
“It is practically impossible for police to effectively use only four standard roadblocks per province. For the police to be effective in their mandate, they must be equipped with effective policing equipment like breathalysers and speed traps,” added Mr Katsvairo.
Mr Katsvairo said there would be no need for many roadblocks if the processes involving drivers’ compliance with road rules were made easy.
“There must be an ease of doing business. The cost of change of vehicle ownership is too high and so is the cost related to changing number plates and vehicle registration books. The cost of compliance to become a public service vehicle is also very high, resulting in many vehicle owners bypassing the processes,” Mr Katsvairo said.
Tafadzwa Goliati, the president of the Passenger Association of Zimbabwe, said road users must not rush to celebrate.
“There is no cause for celebrations. The police are known for grandstanding. Remember the same minister has in the past made pronouncements that were never implemented,” Mr Goliati said.
Dr Chombo is on record saying Traffic Police would stop collecting cash fines at roadblocks and would instead use an electronic system as a measure to curb corruption. That has not happened. In 2015, High Court judge Justice Francis Bere ruled there was no legal framework compelling motorists to pay spot fines. Another High Court judge, Justice Ester Muremba, also ruled against spot fines. Police still demand these. National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba had not responded to questions sent to her regarding the traffic management system pronouncements by the time of publishing.