The sources noted this has resulted in the proliferation of roadblocks, some just a few kilometres apart, as officers raced to meet the targets which are raking in millions of dollars a month for the force.
They said the issuance of spot fines has become a lucrative fund-raising project for the police force. “This is the money that the police use for the day-to-day operations of the force,” said one source. “If it were not for such projects, the police force would have been virtually grounded a long time ago.”
Several police officers interviewed last week confirmed that stations were sometimes given targets, with the amounts depending on the size and location of the station.
Some stations in urban areas are given targets of up to US$1 500 per day while those at busy growth points are supposed to generate between US$300 to US$500.
“For example, Gutu has a target of US$300 per day while a station is Harare can have a target of up to US$1 500 per day,” said one of the sources. Another officer said the targets were not given on daily basis but specific days when police wanted to raise money for certain projects.
Some police stations dispatch two or three teams to erect roadblocks in the same vicinity in a bid to meet the targets, they said. “This is why you see a lot of roadblocks these days,” said another source. “But it is inconveniencing to motorists, especially those rushing to work in the morning. While we will be making money, the country will be losing precious production time.”
Each morning motorists from Chitungwiza to Harare, towns which are only 25 kilometres apart, encounter at least four to five roadblocks, where they are made to pay spot fines. This mostly affects commuter omnibus operators.
The situation is the same along the country’s highways. The operators are forced to bribe officers with money ranging from US$5 to US$10 per roadblock and then be able to spend the whole day without being stopped regardless of the condition of their vehicle.
Most common traffic offences and fines are for not presenting an operator’s licence (US$20), failure to display certificate of fitness (US$10), no certificate of fitness (US$15), failure to affix route authority (US$5), carry excess passenger (US$5 per head), touting (US$10), among others.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Police Commissioner, Wayne Bvudzijena, confirmed officers were given targets but this was not confined to the traffic section alone. He said targets were also given to those in Criminal Investigations Department (CID), Anti-Stock Theft Unit and other sections.
“The concept is not new. This is done for service planning purposes,” said Bvudzijena. “This is done so that we manage the commission of crime and measure officers’ performance on targets that we would have established.”
Asked if this would not force officers to just dish out tickets as well as promote corruption, Bvudzijena said police officers were supposed to be disciplined and be people of integrity.
“We urge members of the public to report corrupt officers because we do not condone crime,” he said. “We have dealt with some corrupt officers through criminal prosecution and internal disciplinary process.”
Efforts to get a comment from Home Affairs co-minister Kembo Mohadi, who was tasked by Cabinet to investigate the matter with the aim to reduce the number of roadblocks, were fruitless last week.
Not all the money from traffic offences is flowing into the police fund, as corrupt officers are taking the opportunity to line their pockets to supplement their poor salaries.
Officers from other departments are now jealous of those in the traffic section, who now drive the Japanese cars, wear smart uniforms and can afford a decent lunch daily.
Police using agents to collect bribeS from commuter operators
Investigations by The Standard have established that some traffic officers are now using “agents” to collect bribe money from operators for fear of being arrested after the force embarked on a project to weed out bad apples.
The rank marshals are told to collect the monies from each commuter omnibus operators which would then be forwarded to the officers through a trusted source.
This practice is common in the city terminuses, where officers virtually camp at ranks to “protect” operators without enough papers from other officers or municipal police.
“We can’t trap them because if you do that, we will only get one officer but our vehicles will not move again on the road because they will gang up against us,” said one rank marshal at Warren Park terminus.
“So we find it better to give them the money and be able to work the whole day.”
Roadblocks accused of worsening corruption
So rampant is corruption and with the proliferation of roadblocks, that the matter has since been raised in Parliament and Cabinet. Deputy Prime Minister, Arthur Mutambara, condemned the increase of roadblocks saying it bred corruption within the force.
There have been several protests by public transporters about the roadblocks and the resultant corruption by traffic police officers. But this has come to naught as Police Commissioner-General, Augustine Chihuri, has declared that roadblocks would not be reduced.
Police have said they will also continue retaining the money collected from spot fines because the law permits them to do so.