“Police roadblocks killing tourism”

HARARE - The video of a white woman in handcuffs in front of her children at a roadblock that went viral on social media a few days ago not only shocked local motorists but also sent a chilling message to international tourists – stay away from Zimbabwe.

Economic analysts said the proliferation of roadblocks – manned by the Zimbabwe Republic Police – along the country’s major and small roads was a hindrance to the growth of the tourism sector, which has a capacity to contribute $5 billion to the economy.

Zimbabwe has alluring holiday resorts such as the majestic Victoria Falls and some scenic tourists attractions in Mutare, Nyanga, Vumba, Masvingo and Matopo among other areas, but the rising number of roadblocks has seen deep-pocketed international tourists giving the country a wide berth in favour of its regional neighbours.

So rampant is the mushrooming of roadblocks that commuter operators in Mutare on Monday pulled their vehicles off the road citing corruption and harassment by traffic cops, who are alleged to mount seven roadblocks on a 20 kilometer journey.

The kombi drivers said they were being forced out of business by the bribe-demanding police officers.

“The Zimbabwe Roadblock Police are ripping us every day and we have decided to park our cars and register our displeasure with the relevant authorities,” fumed a Kombi driver only identified as Tawanda.

“We are not making any profits as we are losing close to $60 per day to nearly half a dozen roadblocks from Dangamvura to town for unjustified offences. We all know the economy is not performing but the police are making the situation worse for everyone,” said 33 year old Dickson Maruma.

Although government this week indicated that it was making efforts to reduce the number of roadblocks along the country’s roads, critics feel the damage has already been done.

“We have observed as parliament that there is no law concerning roadblocks and they are just being erected willy-nilly. Tourists driving from Beitbridge to Victoria Falls on average go through about 20 roadblocks. They have been checked at the border and passed through customs and immigration,” National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda said.

He added that the roadblocks were not only affecting tourism but the smooth flowing of foreign direct investment as well.

“In Tanzania, road blocks have been reduced from 58 to 15. In Kenya, they used to have 35 police road blocks between Mombasa and Malawi but by 2013 all road blocks had been removed,” Mudenda said.

“Now you bring an investor from outside and they land at Harare International Airport, they go through Customs and Immigration just as they leave the airport where there is our independence banner there is a road block! Can this investor be a criminal in that five metres they have travelled? Come on, this does not make sense. Let us not be our own enemies against strengthening the ease of doing business,” he added.

The Zanu PF legislator, however, noted that Parliament had been assured by the Home Affairs ministry that the roadblocks would be reduced soon.

Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA) chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi said there was need for the police at roadblocks to understand the importance of the tourism sector in the country and stop harassing tourists.

“When we talk of some of the fines; people being fined for not having reflectors on their cars. If you are a foreign tourist driving a car hired from Namibia or South Africa, it definitely doesn't have those stickers.

“Yet when you cross the Zimbabwean border you are expected to have those stickers and that is driving tourists away,” he said.

Zimbabwe Council of Tourism chief executive Paul Matamisa said international tourists now feel that the country is under some form of curfew due to heavy presence of police.

“There are too many police roadblocks on our roads and tourists feel it is not safe to be here as the police presence scares them because in their countries police details are usually visible when there is an emergency,” he said.

Matamisa noted that tourism players are constantly raising the issue of roadblocks as it was working against the Tourism ministry efforts of making Zimbabwe a prime tourist destination in the region.

“We are not saying roadblocks should be abandoned altogether, no, they should not disappear but we are saying they should not be so overwhelming,” he added.

Amagugu International Heritage Centre director Pathisa Nyathi said Zimbabwe was slowly degenerating into a police state due to the ubiquitous security checkpoints on the country’s roads operated by heavily armed police officers who often demand bribes from motorists.

Nyathi, whose tourists attraction centre is in Matobo, said the large number of roadblocks “does not help our tourism at all”.

“Just getting to Matopos (from Bulawayo) you have to go through at least four roadblocks. Certainly we are not militarily or in a security sense, a threatened state. There is no need for so many roadblocks. If anything, they have become a hindrance,” he added.

While efforts to get a comment from national police spokesperson charity Charamba did not yield any results, she recently said roadblocks were necessary on the country’s roads to fight crime.

“The issue of roadblocks is not synonymous to Zimbabwe only, all countries deploy officers to roadblocks,” she said.

Comments (8)

Who is fighting who at these notorious roadblocks? Police fighting crime? Which crime when infact it is the police who have become criminals themselves asking for huge bribes? This Charamba must come out open. We are not saying road blocks must completely go , but we are just saying they are way too much.

Viona Ngwena - 5 July 2016

Who is fighting who at these notorious roadblocks? Police fighting crime? Which crime when infact it is the police who have become criminals themselves asking for huge bribes? This Charamba must come out open. We are not saying road blocks must completely go , but we are just saying they are way too much.

Viona Ngwena - 5 July 2016

Charity wants to justify what is not correct. Go to Botswana and see how many police roadblocks you encounter between Franscistown and Gaborone, or RSA between Pretoria and JHB is not BeitBridge to JHB. Also its the meanness of these guys on the road, they are mean.

therambo - 5 July 2016

I met Mai Charamba once, and I once had much respect for her. I have lost it all. The real issue needs to be addressed here. Let's not make excuses about preventing crime... our houses are being broken into, our children are even being abducted outside their schools, and the Police can do nothing because they are all deployed to roadblocks. How are we fighting crime? Is it only that all Police are corrupt? Of course not. The truth is that every Police station is mandated to raise a certain amount of dollars daily. This instruction comes from the top, and that is where the biggest rot resides. Yes, there are some junior officers who will take advantage and pocket money for themselves, but the problem has been passed down the chain of command from the greedy, fat, gluttons sitting at the top. The few honest Police officers that are left - we urge you to join the people of Zimbabwe in this struggle. We will no longer tolerate this corruption at any level. Whether you are the corrupt Policeman at the roadblock, or whether you are the bloated, obese ghost of democracy sitting behind your desk - the people have spoken, and they have had enough.

realtruth - 5 July 2016

Mai Charamba, today you have failed the people of Zimbabwe. You should be ashamed of your lies. I beg you, stop trying to protect your job and your comfortable chair, and speak the truth. Do what is right.

compasion - 5 July 2016

in SA in 11 years a friend of mine says they have never seen a roadblock except for drink/driving control --- that is living in Durban and Jo'burg alike \

KK - 6 July 2016

I ve been working in Namibia and south africa for the past 15 years and the only roadblock i know is in Rundu, as you enter Windhoek and when you exit Windhoek. Nost of the times, they won't even stop you. Driving from Victoria Falls to Byo the other day, i counted 23 road blocks and asked myself if these were genuine road blocks. some of the police officers don't even know what they are looking for. its a shame. Wonder where this country is going to. A country managed by an old man who has even failed to raise up his own children in a respectable way.

Jaluo - 7 July 2016

Highway Robbery - that is all I can say. I have just returned from Zimbabwe spent 8th - 30th October 2016 in said country. I visit anualy, sometimes more. This is the last visit. Police harassment and fines for alleged infringments has just become to much. I will spend my hard earned dollars else where.

David Nixon - 1 November 2016

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