Soldiers' actions expose bad policing

HARARE - On Tuesday, hundreds of ordinary citizens witnessed a spectacle they felt would never occur in Zimbabwe — angry soldiers beating up uniformed police officers on the streets of Harare!

Yes, it happened and much to the shock of many people.

The incident was sparked by a reported use of police spikes on a car belonging to a soldier in one of the many unpopular police roadblocks which the authorities say are not roadblocks but spot checks.

It was a sad day for many Zimbabweans as this spectacle further highlighted everything that has become wrong with these police roadblocks.

No one must celebrate the actions of the soldiers who ruthlessly savaged innocent police officers going about their business.

It is barbaric and unsettling as these actions raise needless tensions in a country that is already hurting due to myriad problems — both political and economic.

Any well-meaning Zimbabweans should never celebrate what happened on Tuesday no matter how much they don’t like these roadblocks and the spikes.

However, the unfortunate incident must not be looked at from a political lens as other people would want ordinary Zimbabweans to believe because there is certainly nothing political about complaining over the use of spikes on moving vehicles by police, as evidenced by the outcry from the public and lawmakers.

There is even a case before the High Court relating to the use of spikes at these roadblocks so, going into detail of the legalities of this would be improper and sub judice.

But Tuesday’s incident, while deplorable and regrettable, serves to underline the problems created by the current policing with regards to the roadblocks.

Crucially, the actions of the soldiers serve to show that it is high time police abandons its use of spikes and reduce these roadblocks.

The view of the public is that there is recalcitrant attitude by police because the highest office has spoken about the need to address these roadblocks, people have been injured as a result of use of spikes, international tourists have turned their backs on the country and the lawmakers have said things cannot continue like this.

When one considers that the police force itself is struggling with imposters who are mounting roadblocks using their own uniforms, then surely the expectation would be that police must take heed of the outcries.

What happened on Tuesday is a dangerous sign and goes to show how other arms of the security forces are also fed up with this kind of policing and would go to the ends of the earth to try and put a stop to this, sadly by flouting the laws such as engaging in revenge missions.

Such acts help to encourage members of the public to take the law into their own hands and one shudders to think what would happen next.

The celebratory mood and cheering which was witnessed as police officers ran away from the angry soldiers was revealing.

Things must not be allowed to come to this.

Unless government steps in and takes decisive action on the roadblocks and spikes, we could be heading towards uncharted waters.

Meanwhile, police roadblocks continue to bring in more revenue than most top performing companies listed on the stock exchange.

In the first six months police collected $14 million from its unpopular roadblocks and arrested more than one million traffic offenders during that period.

Police also collected R11,717 900 million.

The figures are carried in a Memorandum compiled by officer commanding national

traffic and sent to police chiefs and relevant heads in a review of fines, arrests and targets carried in the first 178 days of 2017.

Curiously, the report mentioned that police officers manning the roadblocks and carrying spot checks were failing to meet their targets due to many roadblocks, especially in Harare.

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