Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Karoi: When police lay ambush

Karoi: When police lay ambush

Isdore Guvamombe Reflections

THE road serpentines up and down Mapinga, breaking into patches of hairpin curves, rises and blinds, upwards, sideways and little everywhere else the mountain cliffs allowed the architect.It then laps over a level rail crossing, giving way to vast swathes of tinder dry grass. Outbreaks of veld fires tell the story of irresponsible behaviour among farmers as we bury one rustic farm settlement after another, until we get to Karoi Town.

The October sun is unforgiving and angrily roasts everything and everyone, threatening a biltong treatment.

But the Toyota engine is resilient and carrying the vehicle, slithering past hissing, puffing and hobnobbing haulage trucks. The monsters crawl.

Ten kilometres before Karoi Town, a colleague tries to explore the meaning of an epitaph of a witch skilfully gliding on a sweeping broom. I chug down a coke and tell him that the insignia introduces the small but rather sleepy town of Karoi (the small witch). After doing our business of the day within two hours at Twin Rivers Inn, we decided to return to Harare, for there is little much you can do in the small town.

A few kilometres after Buffalo down, the left lane (that is the lane to Harare) suddenly turned bad. Extremely bad.

Something must have corroded the tarmac and left unforgiving potholes, while the two other lanes from the opposite direction are still intact. For an alert driver, there is a white line at the centre, meaning under normal circumstances, a driver should not straddle or cross to the other lanes, in terms of the Road Traffic Act. But in circumstances like these, a good driver finds no option but to avoid this very bad patch, unless there is traffic from the opposite direction.

We started discussing and trying to figure out what had happened to this stretch, which is distinctively dark, seriously potholed and life threatening. Suddenly down the road we found a police officer rushing to the road and flagging us down. Naturally, being a humble and law abiding village elder, I oblige and stop.

He asked for a driver’s licence which, I gave him. Upon setting his fingers on it, he ordered me to pull off the road, which I did. Then he said I should pay $20 for straddling a white line. I politely asked him, how else was I supposed to save both my life and my car except avoiding the bad patch? Besides there were no other cars on the other lane. His answer was sharp; “I don’t work for Ministry of Transport. If you want the road sorted you know where to report. To me you stepped on the white line, period.”

I talked to him again about understanding that if there was no obstacle, I could not have straddled the line and he then became agitated and dismissive.

“The reason I am here is that almost every driver avoids that patch and drives on the wrong side. To me it is an offence. A straight offence! Pay my brother, you are delaying yourself. We chose to wait here because we know every driver who gets there does it.”

So this villager paid to avoid inconveniences. But a lot of questions run and still ring in my mind. Does a policeman behave like a robot? Is a policeman not allowed to apply reason and be discretional? Within minutes, there were seven of us, complaining about the same situation. Everyone was baffled as to how police choose a life threatening spot. Honestly if you don’t avoid this patch you perish, there is a huge slope on the side of the road and the only way is to straddle white line. I challenge even the most senior police officer to visit the spot.

Honestly, for police in Karoi to deliberately choose the worst part of the road, knowing fully well that any sane driver will avoid potholes and damaged surface, is to me not only mischievous but irresponsible. What does safe driving tell you?

Is it the motorist’s fault that the road is visibly badly damaged on a highway?

Should drivers ride roughshod over potholes on a highway and get involved in an accident? This seems a clear ambush than policing. It is a deliberate attempt to siphon cash from motorists when the motorists have good intentions. This is one bad example of how we should never treat our people. Honestly, honestly, honestly this is not it. It is not policing. Never!

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