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Licensed to drive

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In Harare police have taken to setting up informal road blocks in places that cause congestion. I say informal because there is seldom any warning that one is approaching such a road block – unless backed up traffic counts as notification. There are no police signs anywhere to be seen.

Armed (and it’s no accident I use this word) with a lime green reflective vest and a receipt book, police in Harare camp out at comfortable locations and fund raise for themselves. Official fines are seldom raised, tickets seldom issued, but money certainly changes hands.

If the police force has any commitment to public safety or public good they should institute a system whereby reflective vests emblazoned with ‘POLICE’ and receipt books used to record fines should be strictly controlled – as one would weapons.

Ask anyone and they will confirm that crime in the capital is on the up. Gone is the quiet thief who strikes whilst you’re out or asleep. Common is the brazen thief who wants to catch you unawares at your home or carjack you on the road. They can be brazen because the police force has little interest in Real Policing.

Two current favourite policing activities are:

a) Stopping kombis (privately run transport operators) on any pretense and delaying them long enough to secure a bribe. Usually the driver will get out of his car, walk back to the police officer, shake his/her hand and start to negotiate.

b) Stopping cars on behalf of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s licensing inspectors.

In both of these scenarios, the police have no interest in using this opportunity to check that a driver is licensed to be at the wheel, or that the vehicle is roadworthy. As long as you have a Radio Licence or will pay a bribe, you can drive a vehicle!

I think the collective term for police has traditionally been a ‘posse’ or something similar. These days it would be more apt to pick from one of the following:

An obstruction of police
A huddle of police
A den of police
A swagger of police

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