'Too many police roadblocks killing tourism'

HARARE - Zimbabwe Council of Tourism (ZCT) chief executive Paul Matamisa has called for an all-stakeholders meeting to deal decisively with menacing police roadblocks which have triggered scorn and outrage among business and ordinary Zimbabweans.

This comes as a large cross-section of Zimbabweans have condemned a government directive that empowers police to mount one roadblock within a 10-kilometer radius, arguing that the ill-advised decision would fuel corruption on the country’s roads.

Curiously, police have actually increased roadblocks within the 10 km zones — a move which road users and ordinary Zimbabweans say flies in the face of calls by lawmakers and tourism players to minimise roadblocks — which they blame for driving away tourists and wasting productive hours.

“As has been pointed out by many people and organisations in recent months, the roadblock situation has had a direct and negative impact on tourism.

“Domestic travel, which is almost entirely dependent on self-drive travel, has been reduced significantly by the roadblocks, as people prefer to stay at home than be exposed to the delays and hassle factor created by the presence of a large number of roadblocks along all tourism travel routes.

“Recent reports have shown that between Harare and Mutare, for example, there are sometimes in excess of 20 roadblocks, and some travellers report having been made to stop at each of these, resulting in three-hour journeys becoming as long as six hours,” Matamisa said in a statement.

“International travellers hiring vehicles or travelling in coaches and buses have also reported delays and have been especially critical of what they have described as hostility and aggressiveness on the part of personnel manning the roadblocks. It is a point raised again and again by tourists on departure and there have been reports of some foreign travellers gaining the very unfortunate and inaccurate impression that the country is in a state of unrest.

“Whether this perception is factual or not, this perception exists and must be addressed, as it has created something of a public relations nightmare for Zimbabwe as a whole, not the least the travel and tourism sector.

“ZCT is very keen to work with all stakeholders in reviewing the whole situation and working on a means of overcoming the problems created by the roadblocks situation in a manner that is satisfactory to all parties. In this regard, we are seeking meetings with all relevant authorities and we will share our thoughts on what can be done,” added Matamisa.

Recently, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo said police had been instructed to decongest roadblocks through a directive which allowed one roadblock within a 10-km radius to promote ease of doing business.

However, this has not gone down well with motorists who have launched a campaign against the police ahead of filing a Class action at the Constitutional Court.

“Whilst police are entitled to roadblocks to maintain law and order in terms of section 68 of the Constitution their actions have to be reasonable, proportionate and fair,” former Cabinet minister and Road Users Association (RUA) lawyer, David Coltart told the Daily News last week.

“Setting up a roadblock in every 10 km radius is not reasonable or proportional to maintaining law and order. In fact the numerous roadblocks are a direct violation of section 66 which says every Zimbabwean and anyone living in Zimbabwe has a right to move freely in Zimbabwe.”

The public outcry comes as stone-broke government has increased traffic spot fines by nearly 100 percent, in a controversial move it claims will reduce road accidents.

The new traffic fines were announced just weeks after police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri had called for steep increases in the spot fines, which he said would curb Zimbabwe’s worsening road carnage and reckless driving.

The High Court last month gave relief to thousands of motorists who complain about the random and unrelenting harassment at roadblocks by police, when it ruled that there was no law that allowed police to confiscate licences and impound vehicles of drivers who refused to pay spot fines.

This was after police had admitted that they had no right to force drivers to pay spot fines.

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max - 10 April 2017

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