HARARE – One of the burning issues on nearly everyone’s lips these days is the high prevalence of roadblocks on the country’s roads.
It has become the “new normal” for motorists to go through at least three roadblocks in a stretch of about 10 kilometres, possibly unprecedented in the history of traffic policing.
Notwithstanding their high prevalence, road traffic accidents are not abating.
For all we know, the carnage on our roads is getting worse, partly because of the increase in the vehicular population and the deterioration in our road infrastructure.
Early this month, nearly 50 lives were lost along the Harare-Chirundu road, when a King Lion bus plunged into a tree on its way to Zambia, with reports citing human error as the contributing factor.
Statistics from the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) say it all. According to TSCZ, five lives are lost every day to road accidents.
So, what is the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) doing on the roads?
It can be argued that the situation could have been worse had the police reduced their presence on the roads, but that is just hypothetical.
What seems to be coming out clearly is that these roadblocks now serve to generate revenue for the cash-strapped government in the wake of enormous budgetary constraints confronting the fiscus.
Reports suggest that the ZRP is expecting to rake in nearly $60 million from traffic fines alone this year, double the figures from the prior year.
For a government operating on a shoestring budget of US$4,1 billion for the 2017 fiscal year, this is no joke.
The question that, however, begs for an answer is; at what cost?
From a moral point of view, the government has lost its moral compass.
For an administration that claims to be for the people, it really does not make sense to make life a living hell for the struggling motorist in the name of raising money to fund its profligacy.
The argument goes beyond the moral uprightness of it or lack thereof. Industry and commerce has been haemorrhaging because of the controversial fines they are made to pay for petty misdeeds.
The tourism industry has been the worst affected, with Tourism and Hospitality minister Walter Mzembi taking up the matter with the second most influential person in government — Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Up to this day, nothing much has changed. If anything, the roadblocks have been intensified.
Unconfirmed reports also suggest that two weeks ago, President Robert Mugabe ordered the police to cut back on their roadblocks. Again, there is no evidence that this has been complied with.
I doubt if there is anybody out there who can be fooled into thinking that the police is being disobedient, never mind the isolated cases of indiscipline among some of the police details.
Our police are still a disciplined force, with no record of disregarding orders from its superiors.
True, here and there, we have had cases of the police ignoring court orders, but this would be in connivance with their superiors.
That the roadblocks are still widespread despite this matter having been escalated to the highest offices is a sure sign that no such instruction has been given to the ZRP possibly because the very people who are pretending to be concerned about the situation are benefiting from the status quo.
But that the officialdom is saying one thing in public and acting exactly the opposite behind closed doors creates the risk where government may not be taken seriously in future.
Such self-serving politicking is usually premised on the erroneous belief that Zimbabweans are docile and therefore incapable of holding their leaders to account for their actions.
The truth is, however, that there is a limit to which their resilience and docility could be tested.
Bring on more roadblocks and let us see where this could take us!