Roadblocks cause chaos

A crackdown on illegal commuter omnibuses and vehicles, launched by various authorities in Harare on Wednesday, left many passengers stranded on the outskirts of the city centre as operators avoided roadblocks set up by the police. Traffic jams and long queues were also reported by shoppers.

Reliable sources told SW Radio Africa that minibus drivers accused police of being corrupt and soliciting bribes at the roadblocks, even from drivers whose documents were in order. The drivers themselves were also criticized for raising fares illegally during the holidays.

Phillip Pasirayi, director of the Centre for Community Development Zimbabwe, described the police operation as disorderly and chaotic. “People had to endure long distances from the outskirts of the city and then back again with their shopping bags,” Pasirayi explained.

He also agreed with SW Radio Africa contacts who said some corrupt police officers were using the roadblocks to raise money for themselves. “There is need for a cleaning up exercise of some sort within the police force. It’s like a cancer that needs to be dealt with decisively,” Pasirayi said.

The drivers themselves were criticized for treating commuters unfairly. Pasirayi said they are charging double or even triple the amount of the actual fares during holidays, knowing people have no choice. Drivers claimed they had to pay the police.

The Harare council spokesperson Leslie Gwindi announced last week that unregistered vehicles, and those parked illegally, would be impounded over the holidays. Owners were being fined $20 and impounded vehicles cost $600 to recover.

The special operation was conducted by the Vehicle Inspection Department, Central Vehicle Registry and the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe. But all they’ve seemed to manage to do is create chaos.

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