Harare – As anger solidifies in Zimbabwe and traffic police step up their demands for fines again at roadblocks, there’s been one small but significant victory: a magistrate who’s scolded two cops for being time wasters.
In a story that’s quickly become the most read in today’s state-owned Chronicle newspaper, the pair, stationed at Plumtree on the border with Botswana, dragged a taxi driver to court claiming he’d tried to murder one of them by hitting him with his vehicle at a road checkpoint.
The officers may have felt emboldened by a case in May in which a driver was sent to jail in Gweru for a staggering 10 years for allegedly trying to run over a traffic cop at the checkpoint.
But this magistrate, named by the Chronicle as Chrispen Mberewere, wasn’t having any of it. First he established that this was an illegal checkpoint (there were only two cops at it, and by law there must be three), and then he said the court was “tired of comedian police officers who rush to concoct attempted murder charges whenever they have altercations with drivers.”
‘We are tired of lying police officers’
After a weekend in which Zimbabwe’s police have had far from a good press, readers have been celebrating the judgement. Wrote reader Gift Nxumalo: “Job well done MR MBEREWERE. If Zimbabwe had lots of MBEREWERES justice will be served.” Sanity Please wrote: “May God watch over this magistrate and bless his household. We are tired of lying police officers.”
The roadblocks erected across Zimbabwe are one of the things that those behind last week’s nationwide #ShutDownZim stay-away are demanding should be removed. Tweeted one Zimbabwean this morning: “Road blocks are back. From Glenview to Town, 6 of them. Even beggars do not look for money as desperately as this.” Former vice president, Joice Mujuru alleged last week on a Facebook page managed by her or a close associate, that police had been forced to become “tax collectors” because of a drop in government revenues.
The checkpoints also put off self-drive tourists, with would-be visitors from South Africa posting of their fears of the cops across the border before they decide whether to go ahead or give up on their trips to Zimbabwe.
Another stay-away is planned for Zimbabwe on Wednesday and Thursday, according to Evan Mawarire. He is the pastor who is playing a key role in articulating online many Zimbabweans’ frustrations over government corruption, the failing economy, an import ban and police heavy-handedness, especially at roadblocks.
There have been other small victories that may indicate that the authorities are listening to #ShutDownZim more than they admit. One is the moving forward of the pay date for health workers. Tight controls on South African imports have not been removed, though the authorities have said that individuals will be allowed to import extremely limited quantities of some basic goods for their own family’s use once per month. This will bring no relief to small-scale traders though.