Mugabe right on roadblocks

HARARE - Our beloved police continue to hog the limelight.

Sadly, due to wrong reasons, mostly.

This time, it had to take President Robert Mugabe to call the law enforcers to order.

And it is not the first time the 93-year-old leader has had to intervene in reigning in errant police behaviour.

Speaking at the burial of late Vice President Simon Muzenda’s widow, Moudy, and liberation struggle hero George Rutanhire’s burial at the National Heroes Acre in Harare over the weekend, Mugabe slammed the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) over its countless roadblocks, which have bred the culture of bribe-taking by some members of the force.

Mugabe also savaged police officers for owning and secretly operating commuter omnibuses, some of which he said were responsible for the carnage reported on the country’s roads.

“The police force, be a police force of the people and not waiting for people on the roads to demand bribes,” Mugabe said to the applause and cheer of the gathered crowd.

“We do not want to hear that. So stop that evil,” he said.

He even went further to suggest “dignified” ways the hard-pressed force could pursue to raise funds.

“If you want farms we can give you land to cultivate...if you want to have clean businesses, why not?” he said, adding that “If you are a policeman, you can combine, you can run a bus fleet instead of having commuter omnibuses, some of which are killing people”.

“So if a police officer’s commuter omnibus kills people, what then is the meaning of your job as a police officer?” asked Mugabe.

“We will give you a chance to come up with your own bus company. You buy two or three buses, combine.

“It can be run not just by yourselves, you look for drivers and others who can run these businesses, even your children.

“That’s more dignified. Not demanding bribes from people,” Mugabe said, as he acknowledged that the police conduct had “troubled many people”.

That was surely a strong statement by the president.

It comes at a time the masses — particularly motorists and commuters — feel the cops have become a menace on the roads and in society.

While police play a critical role in ensuring security of the innocent citizens, the ZRP has of late been dogged by many accusations of misconduct.

From the abuse of spikes, controversial spot fines to violation of human rights by beating up protestors and wrongfully impounding motorists vehicles.

People now view the ubiquitous roadblocks as mere fundraising exercises rather than security check points as they purport.

To prove that, in June, the Daily News exclusively reported that the ZRP had collected $14 million from its unpopular roadblocks since the beginning of the year.

Curiously, despite the heavy presence of traffic police on almost all the roads, particularly major highways, road carnage is on the rise.

Many lives have been lost due to accidents, which could be avoided by enforcement of road rules by the so many traffic cops on our roads.

Apart from numerous complaints of harassment by the motoring public, police roadblocks have also been blamed for driving away international tourists.

We cannot belabour the point on the damage caused by the police’s conduct.

Just last week, five cops were dragged to court after bashing a man and gouging his eye in the process.

This is one of many cases of alleged abuse by the police.

While the police have done a tremendous job in weeding out criminals from the society, its conduct leaves a lot to be desired.

Mugabe is spot on.

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