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Kombi crews bemoan police harassment and corruption
Moses Chibaya, Community Radio Harare (CORAH)

February 01, 2013

Commuter omnibus (kombi) and taxi drivers in Harare have bemoaned harassment and corruption from police officers whom they also accuse of smashing kombi/taxi windscreens. Several kombi crews told Talking Harare this week that a number of their vehicles operating in the city centre have had their windscreens shattered especially when they are found loading passengers at un-designated points.

"What police officers are doing is very wrong, when they find you picking up passengers at un-designated points they simply shatter the vehicle windscreen instead of asking us to pay fines. At the end of the day the kombi/taxi owner ends up deducting money from the driver's salary to repair windscreens which cost nearly US$100," said a driver who identified himself as William and operates between the city centre and Msasa.

"Sometimes we try to run away from the police who often ask for bribes and when we try to escape, they always smash the windscreen. The bribes they ask for are too high when compared to the US$10 we are supposed to pay as fines. They at times demand as much as US$40 which is almost the same as our daily takings and so we end up running away," said kombi driver Tobias Hamutendi who added that government must urgently intervene to stop corruption.

Prosper Mudavanhu who operates from Charge Office bus terminus said he has now resorted to picking up passengers at designated places but traffic police officers always follow them before accusing them of flouting other road regulations.

"Even if we park at the so-called designated areas, the police always come after us and accuse us of flouting minor traffic laws like not having litter bins in public vehicles and we end up trying to escape as a way of avoiding to pay bribes. This again presents them with an opportunity to smash our windscreens," bemoaned Mudavanhu.

Although National Traffic Police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Luckmore Chakanza could not comment saying the issue is sensitive, police's heavy-handedness when dealing with members of the public and their corrupt practices have often been condemned by human rights activists and government authorities.

Even the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) admitted corruption is rife in the force adding it arrested 123 corrupt officers last year and discharged more than 30 as it moves to clean its image tainted by years of unrestrained shady practices.

Even President Robert Mugabe took exception to ZRP's growing dubious distinction late last year urging the law enforcement agents to be "straightforward."

"Mapurisa, mapurisa, mapurisa! We want you to be straightforward people. You are representatives not only of Government, but of the people as a whole," Mugabe said at a Zanu PF conference.

A report by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACTSA) last year also said corruption by the police was worsening. The report, titled Stealing from the State and Impoverishing the Nation: Zimbabwean Traffic Police Officers Pocketing Huge Sums of Money through Bribes at Checkpoints, said "the sin of corruption is now deeply rooted to such an extent that the culprits are demanding bribes publicly as if it is normal to do so."

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