Police accused of soliciting bribes at roadblocks

There is a growing suspicion among drivers in Zimbabwe that the police are raising funds to buy new luxury cars, by soliciting bribes from innocent civilians at roadblocks and imposing illegal fines on minibuses.

The problem has become so widespread that some mini bus drivers are using alternate routes in order to avoid paying bribes of up to $100 per day, which they say are driving them out of business.

“YeCoca Cola,” the familiar phrase the police have used for years to suggest a few coins for a soft drink, has taken on a very different meaning since Zimbabwe switched to the US dollar currency.

Journalist Zenzele Ndebele, who drove from Harare to Bulawayo on Wednesday, told SW Radio Africa that he counted as many as 15 roadblocks on the trip and was ticketed for violations he did not even understand.

“When I stopped at one of these roadblocks, the guy was asking strange questions like why my car does not have enough body mass. There were also ZBC guys demanding licenses for the car radio,” Ndebele explained.

“Today I actually drove from Bulawayo to Plumtree and there were five roadblocks within the distance of 100 kilometres,” Ndebele said on Friday. The journalist said he did not experience direct bribery at the roadblocks, but returned with three penalty fines instead.

Ndebele was fined $80 for not having a car radio license and received two other tickets, each for $10, for the body mass violation and for a missing bolt on his tyre rims.

According to Ndebele, drivers are choosing to lose a smaller amount of money by bribing the police, as opposed to paying these trumped-up penalties in full. He said reports that the police are on a fundraising drive have not been confirmed, but many drivers believe it to be true.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri is reported to have defended the increase in roadblocks. Speaking at a passout parade in Harare, he reportedly said the roadblocks were “there to stay”.

SW Radio Africa News

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