Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Electronic spot fines will not end police corruption

Electronic spot fines will not end police corruption
The disproportionately high number of roadblocks is what is indeed fuelling and sustaining corruption

The disproportionately high number of roadblocks is what is indeed fuelling and sustaining corruption

Bernard Bwoni Correspondent

Corruption is a culture and an attitude that has firmly rooted itself in the Zimbabwe psyche and society at large. It comes in the form of a relationship; there are both givers and takers in the corruption matrix.

Corruption may be rational individually, but socially and economically it is indefensible and inefficient. In Zimbabwe, things are not going to change overnight because too many people have benefited from corruption and bribes. Many will cling on and claw back to preserve their ill-gotten gains. It is not only those in positions of authority who have benefited, but many ordinary citizens have fallen prey to the corruption snare.

The recurrent issues of police bribes are not a simple case of removing the spot fines and the problem is eradicated.

That is just wishful thinking.

There are indeed structural problems that need to be thoroughly investigated and addressed. Simply saying no spot fines is not going to resolve the deep-rooted causes that influence police corruption.

Police officers are human and, like most Zimbabweans, affected by the tough economic conditions, they are indeed fallible.

This is not in any way meant to excuse corrupt tendencies. However, if the proposed changes to payment systems of the spot fines, there is a likelihood of police officers simply accepting even reduced bribes.

The problem is not the spot fines, but rather the excessive numbers of roadblocks on the roads.

On some roads there seem to be more roadblocks than street lights and it is shocking.

The disproportionately high number of roadblocks is what is indeed fuelling and sustaining the corruption.

Those are the structural problems that need to be changed, yes there are instances where roadblocks or police presence is necessary, but some of it has just become a police get-together to extract money out of the public.

Corruption is a culture and an attitude that has firmly rooted itself in the Zimbabwe psyche and society at large. It comes in the form of a relationship; there are both givers and takers in the corruption matrix.

In an ideal world this unhealthy relationship would be easily ended by cancelling out the giver to starve off the taker. But we live in the real world, the world of poverty and hardship, the world of impatience and the world where people pay bribes and where police officers solicit these bribes.

The difficulties faced by many are the same that affect police officers and unfortunately for motorists, the police officers make life difficult for many.

The bureaucracy involved in police administration put off motorists accepting tickets and many find it less time-consuming to just pay the reduced spot fine in the form of a bribe. Thus it is commendable that Minister Chombo is talking of the introduction of a system that will sideline the police officer on the road completely.

However, unless backed up by very easy-to-use electronic payment system, it is unlikely going to effectively curb the payment and taking of bribes. Many motorists are most likely going to find it cheaper and less cumbersome to offer bribes to police officers to get on with their journeys and avoid the rigours of having to go to some bureaucratic office somewhere and queue to pay for that ticket.

It is a nightmare all round in this uncouth pool of corruption and bribery in the country. It is distressing having as many as four roadblocks all in a very short stretch of road and public offices are not the most pleasant places to visit.

The administrators are arrogant and not very friendly, and as such most people are likely going to opt for the easier route of paying the bribe by the roadside to have the issue resolved instantly with no time consuming bureaucracy ahead.

Once again this is not in any way meant to condone corruption or bribery, both on the part of the officers and motorists.

An effective and easy-to-use electronic payment system will do the trick. It is a fact that most motorists are going to compromise with corrupt officers to avoid the prolonged processes and procedures of going to pay for the ticket.

The difficulty is that corruption among law enforcement officials is a fact of life and deeply embedded in their DNA. Depriving the law enforcement officials of their unofficial “regular income” source is most likely going to make them more inventive and adapt to new ways of extracting bribes.

They are likely going to make things very unbearable for drivers so as to make them pay the bribes by the roadside.

The problem with corruption and letting corrupt practices go without punishment is that it erodes the trust people have in law enforcement and drains the much needed resources to revive the ailing Zimbabwe economy. The problem is that we are targeting only the physical symptoms of corruption and leaving out the real root of the evil.

Harsher penalties should be imposed for wayward officers as a long-term solution to the corruption endemic. Recent reports of officials (ZIMRA) accused of corruption being transferred does not build confidence, it simply erodes confidence in the whole system.

There has to be real consequences for those who break the law and engage in corrupt practices, not a pat on the back. How the use of satellite monitoring is going to work at roadblocks in combating corruption remains to be seen, but it seemed very far-fetched.

The real problem is not exactly the issue of the payment method, but rather the whole issue around spot fines.

That needs to be overhauled completely and maybe replaced by a points based system. A point based system deters and it also gives motorists time. It is educative and not merely punitive.

There are instances where fines are necessary, but spot fines are too subjective and hence the issues of bribes are never going away. The one thing that needs to be addressed urgently is the disproportionately high number of roadblocks on the roads.

The road blocks are excessive and in many instances unnecessary. The proliferation of roadblocks is exactly one of the root causes of corruption.

Zimbabwe does not have that many cars on the road to warrant that many roadblocks. It’s as if most policing resources are being diverted to road policing and yet real criminals mugging people and breaking into people’s properties are being left unattended.

There is something seriously wrong with the unrestricted numbers of roadblocks on Zimbabwe’s roads.

Police are mounting roadblocks in rush hour traffic as people are heading to work and this potentially proves costly to businesses.

Yes, agreed there are too many vehicles that are not roadworthy and these should not be on the roads period. The problem is that police stop these vehicles, accept bribes and these unsafe vehicles are recycled back onto the roads and one would not be far off the mark to suggest that is deliberate ploy to recycle the vehicles to solicit bribes on another day.

It is such a shame that police officers are busy congregating on certain road spots and yet there are buses and kombis causing death by dangerous driving on the roads.

Those are recurrent themes that need to be addressed.

Trucks and passenger carrying vehicles such as long journey buses should have tachograph rules. There should be stiffer penalties for speeding drivers. There should be hours-of-service regulations and drivers’ hours’ regulations that must be adhered to.

These are real issues that need to be addressed urgently.

Week in, week out there is a major accident and many lives are lost and yet we have roadblocks even in neighbourhoods.

Both the police and the public are partners in the bribery ring and they should be partners in the fight against it.

Corruption is a two-way street and the moment the two parties stop making excuses for themselves, the better the outcomes in the fight against corruption.

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