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Report problematic Harare police roadblocks

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Driving out of the shopping centre where I work requires a deep breath, extreme concentration, and a small miracle each afternoon. Traffic can come at you from at least 5 different directions, and there typically isn’t much clear or agreed sense amongst the drivers who should be where,  who should yield to whom, or where one should, or shouldn’t park. The picture  below gives a sense of the chaos:

So, one might think that the presence of Zimbabwe Republic Police Traffic Section at this intersection would be a good thing. They could direct the traffic, clarify the no parking zones, and generally ease congestion and accident potential there.

Unfortunately, as I experienced this morning, their presence instead seems to create even more potential accidents, as they pull cars over into non-existent shoulders, causing cars to back up into the road and risk rear-ending one another. It’s hard also, when you see police here, not to assume they’re more interested in taking a few bribes than they are in enforcing road safety.

So, I phoned the police to find out What’s The Story.

First, I spoke to someone at nearby Highlands Police Station. That didn’t go so well.

Me: Hello – I have a question about a roadblock in Newlands. I’m not sure who the right person to speak with is?
Him: You can speak with me.
Me: Okay, thanks. Well, you see, there is this roadblock at the Newlands Shopping Centre where the shops meet the robots and its’ all very confusing there already, and so when they pull cars over it just makes more congestion and more potential accidents, and maybe they could their roadblock elsewhere, since I’m not really sure what purpose they are serving there?
Him: Are you saying they shouldn’t have their roadblock there?
Me: No, um, well, I’m just saying maybe there are other places that are better, and maybe I could speak with someone to find out why they are there?
Him: There isn’t really anyone I can recommend for you to speak with.
Me: Oh. All right then. Thank you anyway.

I had more luck with Inspector Nuta at the Traffic Section. I explained the situation, and he clarified a few things:

  1. It’s only a road block if there are 8 or more police officers, drums, and “police ahead” signs. If there isn’t all of that, it is a traffic blitz.
  2. At Newlands, the traffic blitz is there to enforce the stop sign for the drivers coming along the old road towards town.
  3. Because there is no parking for cars the police pull over there, the police have been instructed to only pull over one car at a time. However, that creates problems when driver A gets pulled over for not stopping – But then sees drivers B, C and D not stopping and not getting pulled over – So sometimes police pull over more cars (and create more problems).

I suggested that maybe rather than trying to enforce that one stop sign, they could rather invest in better road markings for the whole of the area, so that it’s more clear for all of the traffic who has right of way where. Nuta said this was a fair point and would raise it with his superiors. Of course, I have no way of knowing if he will, but at least their PR machinery has clearly given the Traffic Section some helpful lessons in managing customer complaints and speaking with the public.

I also mentioned a possible “traffic blitz” I’ve seen on Ridgeway / Kew Drive a few times recently. That, Nuta thought, might not be a legal one, and could instead be a case of people misrepresenting the police. He gave me his number and that for his Officer In Charge, and asked that the next time I see them I phone him so that he could “race to the scene” to confirm whether “they are ours.”

It’s easy to get frustrated with the police in Zimbabwe, and assume that every encounter with them will be pointless and aggravating. But this morning’s phone call was a very positive experience. If you are in Harare and have questions about a road block, traffic blitz, or other police traffic behaviour you witness, phone them to find out more, and to report potential problems.

Harare Traffic Section: 04-460268
Inspector Nuta: 0772 929 172
OIC Traffic Chief Inspector Sabau 0772 910 590

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