Police roadblocks stifle emergency responses

HARARE - The countless roadblocks on Zimbabwe’s roads are affecting medical staff response to emergencies, putting patients’ lives in danger, doctors have said.

In a July 14 letter to Zimbabwe Republic Police’s senior assistant commissioner commanding traffic, Zimbabwe Medical Association (Zima) secretary general Shingi Bopoto sought doctors’ exemption from spot penalties at roadblocks.

“Some of our members have advised us that they sometimes fail to attend to emergencies at hospitals or their practices in time due to delays at police roadblocks in and around our various towns,” he said.

“It is against this background that we write to appeal to your esteemed office to allow for special dispensation to medical practitioners, who prove as such at police roadblocks, to be allowed to proceed and pay fines for any offences later at police stations after they have attended to their patients.”

This comes as the country’s health system is already struggling to cater for patients due to economic hardships, with some people dying in hospital queues due to inefficiency and delays.

Bopoto said the request was not in any way an attempt to protect law breakers but to ask for support in dealing with emergencies at health institutions.

“We always encourage our members to ensure that their vehicles and their driving habits are in compliance with traffic laws and regulations at all times. However, through the passage of time of pressure of work, our doctors are occasionally found on the other side of traffic regulations, and are asked to pay spot fines.”

“If they are unable to pay spot fines due to the unavailability of cash or on their persons, they are sometimes detained or have to leave their vehicles impounded,” he said, adding that Zima members would have proper identification cards on them so that the exemption will not be exploited by  undeserving people.

The issue of roadblocks has also created uproar between authorities and the tourism sector, with the latter complaining that the roadblocks were deterring tourists from visiting Zimbabwe.

National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda early this month revealed that Parliament was in talks with Home Affairs to reduce roadblocks.

“These roadblocks will be reduced, I really hope and pray so, but that is the assurance they have given us as Parliament,” Mudenda told a Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce conference in Victoria Falls recently.

“We have observed as Parliament that there is no law concerning roadblocks and they are just being erected willy-nilly,” he said.

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