Whinsley Masara Chronicle Reporter
POLICE have been barred from asking motorists to disembark from vehicles at roadblocks to combat corruption this festive season. The announcement has been met with mixed views by motorists, especially commuter omnibus drivers, who claim police victimise them if they remain in their cars.
National Police spokesperson, Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said: “Police have been directed to talk to drivers whilst they are in their vehicles and in full glare of the public. All passengers are expected to see clearly what will be going on and if an offence has been committed, action should be taken in the open.”
She said: “No police officer should talk to motorists privately or ask them to disembark and move to a separate point where one would be standing or seated alone.”
Kombi drivers yesterday said the police should back the statement with action, by monitoring officers at roadblocks.
“While we welcome the development, the fact is these cops make you park at the side of the road and they ignore you until you come out to speak to them,” said a driver who declined to be named.
The driver said kombis would be chasing time to maximise on the number of trips in a day.
He said waiting at roadblocks costs them money so they often found it better to just get out of the vehicle and pay.
“We pay about $3 at roadblocks. If you’re stubborn, you can waste time for two full trips and end up losing about $20, trying to save $3,” said the driver.
A private motorist said the announcement empowered drivers against corrupt police officers.
“If we all refuse to pay bribes, the police won’t have anyone to victimise. The truth is those who pay bribes have created a bad culture which they keep feeding every time they pay,” said Willard Mavhunga.
“With this announcement, we’ve been empowered to effect a citizens’ arrest on errant officers at roadblocks. As drivers, we should unite and say no to bribes.”
A city lawyer said most drivers were victims of corrupt police officers because they were ignorant of the law.
She said the trick used by police officers to lure drivers out of their vehicles by grabbing their licence discs was illegal.
“I’ve seen it, especially with kombis. They ask for the driver’s licence and once the driver produces it, they take it away. The driver is eventually forced to go to them to pay a bribe. The law says you should show the police your licence, not give them,” said the lawyer.
Bulawayo Public Transporters’ Association (Bupta) secretary-general Albert Ncube said: “We’ve never understood why police officers order drivers to disembark from their vehicles.
He said it was clear police officers would be after bribes and they do not want members of the public to witness them receiving the bribe money.
“I’m glad the police themselves have seen wrong in the action. Definitely this will reduce bribing incidents, which we always complain of,” he said.
Drivers, Ncube said, should ensure their vehicles are in perfect condition to avoid the need to pay bribes.
He added: “If people do not pay bribes, there will be less defective vehicles on the road and fewer accidents.”
The police have declared a zero tolerance to corruption.
A number of corrupt police officers have over the years been dismissed from the force.
Last year about 300 police officers were fired for allegedly demanding bribes or setting up illegal roadblocks to extort money from motorists.