Road­blocks: Don’t cel­e­brate just yet

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - NEWS - Tendai Chara

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.

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