Corrupt police make driving in Zimbabwe a costly affair

Posted on November 29, 2012 | Category: Politics; Business, Sport

 

http://www.trust.org/

 

BULAWAYO,
Zimbabwe (TrustLaw) – Corruption in the police force has become a major talking
point in Zimbabwe since a new report found that its traffic section is the most
corrupt in the region and is costing the government millions of dollars in lost
revenue.
Finance
Minister Tendai Biti told parliament in July that the government was losing at
least US $1 million a year in revenue as bribes find their way into police
officers’ pockets instead of traffic fines being paid into state coffers.
A
report released last month by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa
(ACT-SA) reinforced those findings. Motorists and anti-corruption watchdogs
surveyed by ACT-SA singled out the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP)’s traffic
section as the most corrupt department in southern Africa.
“Corruption
is now deeply rooted to such an extent that the culprits are demanding bribes
publicly as if it is normal to do so,” according to the Nov. 5 report, which
also said there is no commitment within the ZRP to deal with police officers who
are living beyond their means.
The
report said bribes were extracted at six out of seven roadblocks set up around
the country to check drivers, showing that corruption has become endemic among
traffic police.
“If
people with defective vehicles offer a bribe, who am I to turn it down
considering my poor salary?” one traffic officer told TrustLaw.
Policemen,
like many civil servants, earn well below the US $600 per month needed for the
basic support of a family of six, as calculated by labour unions and consumer
watchdogs. Like teachers, police are paid around US $320 a month, tempting them
to accumulate unexplained wealth which many Zimbabweans suspect comes from
corrupt activities.
Alouis
M. Chaumba, Regional Coordinator of ACT-SA, said that if the ZRP was committed
to fighting corruption, it should make police officers declare their
wealth.
“All
public officers must declare their assets before assuming public office, police
officers included, so that it will be easy to audit the wealth accumulation and
its sources,” Chaumba said. “Many civil servants and other public officers have
accumulated instant wealth that does not tally with their incomes.”
National
police chief Augustine Chihuri has said the force will not hesitate to weed out
corrupt officers. Early this year, the official police publication The Outpost
quoted Chihuri as announcing that he was setting up anti-corruption committees
within the police force to tackle reports of bribe-taking.
Yet in
June, Chihuri said it was members of the public who were “corrupting” police
officers. “The society considers you, and rightly so, to be reservoirs of
honesty, uprightness and austerity. To this extent you should uphold virtues of
morality by guarding against being corrupted by unruly members of the society,”
state media quoted Chihuri as saying in a speech to new police recruits.
CITIZENS
BLOW THE WHISTLE
Citizen
activists frustrated by pervasive bribery are taking the initiative, aiming to
expose corruption and blow the whistle on corrupt cops.
Anti-corruption
activist Tawanda Kembo said he was inspired to create an online portal for
reporting bribes, www.ipaidabribe.org.zw, because there was no effective
platform for members of the public to report police corruption.
“Do I
feel the police are doing enough to fight corruption within their ranks? No,” he
said.
“A
start would be to have all officers walk with their badge number displayed
visibly. This is what I am trying to do with my website, which has now become
the most popular way of reporting corruption in Zimbabwe,” he said.
But
Home Affairs Co-Minister Theresa Makone sees the problem as far more widespread.
She told TrustLaw that the corruption plaguing the police force is a sign of a
deeper crisis in a country emerging from years of economic recession.
“Our
country is fast becoming a weak and failing state because of corruption at every
level of society. Corruption, Zimbabwe’s biggest enemy, is not a preserve of the
police,” Makone said. Citizens also bear a responsibility.
“The
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is made up of men and women who are not immunised
against the corruption virus. It should be remembered that if there is a
‘corruptee’ there will be a ‘corruptor,’” she said.
“If
members of the public consistently refuse to pay bribes, there will be a
significant drop in the level of perceived police corruption,” Makone
said.
This is
a tough call for motorists, as the ACT-SA report found, describing one driver’s
experience at a police roadblock. “The bus driver was warned that in future he
will risk more delays if enough bribe money is not paid.”
While
police chief Chihuri insists the police force has checks and balances in place
to deal with bad apples in the ranks, long-suffering motorists think not enough
is being done – and feel they have little choice but to pay up.
“We pay
the bribes not because we want to, but because these cops can threaten to
impound your vehicle on fictitious charges,” said Daniel Ndlovu, a commuter bus
driver.
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