ZRP Private Limited, Over!

It keeps getting clearer. The Zimbabwe Republic Police now has a Special Purpose Vehicle called ZRP P/L. What I am not sure about, though, is whether the company has been registered with Zimra, or whether it has a certificate of incorporation.

Whatever the case, it is very easy to locate, as the company is housed at the very familiar Police General Headquarters, just a stone’s throw away from State House. Augustine Chihuri is the Chief Executive Officer.

ZRP P/L is one of the fastest growing companies in Zimbabwe. After years of operations as some kind of a flea market, it decided to enter the cut-throat world of real business some time last year and now has braches on all the highways in Zimbabwe, complete with cash points in every alley, under trees, behind bushes and even in trenches.

The company is bagging about $9m a month, I am told, and that surely puts this ‘innovative’ company in line for prestigious awards from the AAG and ZIIEB. What the above means, basically, is that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has turned our roads into a business venture.

Some weeks ago I said something about the police using the money obtained from roadblocks to buy luxury cars. With more detail emerging, the whole business of gun-toting, fast-driving cops literally extorting money from motorists is looking messier. Zimbabwe must be the only country in the world with the unenviable reputation of having a police service that has turned roadblocks into a commercial venture. What is even more worrying is that the trend has been institutionalised and no-one seems ready to take action against this despicable show of impunity.

Roadblocks, we all know, are supposed to benefit the public. They are supposed to ensure that road users comply with traffic regulations for the safety and welfare of everyone. They are also supposed to ensure citizens’ general security and curb crime.

What is happening is the complete opposite, as they are now being conducted in a manner that promotes institutionalised criminality.

The background to turning our roads into money spinning ventures is easy to unpack. Augustine Chihuri has repeatedly complained that Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister, was not giving him enough money in successive national budgets, hence his application to use generated revenue internally instead of surrendering it to the national purse through the Justice Ministry.

Prior to the GNU, the police, because of its partisan nature, easily got money from the ministry to splash on luxuries and to oil unpopular campaigns. With Biti now on board, the ball game is very different.

For one, the extra money to give to the police, army, and so on, is not there because some people are diverting diamond revenue. Second, the economy is not performing well and we should live within our means. There is therefore no reason for the police to be cry babies because every government department is affected.

So as a way to hit back Biti, and after failing to acquire a diamond mining licence, ZRP had to turn to the roads to mine the motorists senseless.

I am sure most of us found it shocking that traffic cops are now being given a ‘retention allowance’, apparently to motivate them to bring in more money and avert the all-too-familiar tendency among the officers to pocket the bribes themselves.

The manner in which the blocks are being conducted raises many legal and professional questions. First, ZRP has moved magistrates’ courts to the highways, empowering even the most junior detail in the police service to preside over alleged traffic offences.

Almost every motorist and public transport operator has been transformed into a convicted criminal through the fines they are forced to pay. This, of course, is an affront to justice, as the victims are forced to plead guilty to offences that they would normally challenge. The police officers know too well that the road users are under pressure to get somewhere, be it the workplace, border or a business meeting, and have no choice but to pay spot fines.

By giving traffic cops those hefty allowances, police chiefs are clearly showing how unprofessional they are. (Not that they are well-known for being professional.) They have created an artificial divide between those that are receiving them and those that are not.

In effect, a Superintend earning $700 would always feel inferior in front of a Constable getting his monthly $300 and an extra $2,400 as ‘retention allowance’. Furthermore the pay-outs don’t seem to be respecting best practice in the civil service procedures as they are paid over the counter.

Now is the time for the public to institute class action against these senseless, irritating, illegal and certainly unprofessional roadblocks because they cannot be left to go on just like that. *For feedback, please write to [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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