A day at a road block in St Mary’s

Traffic police at a road block

It’s 1210 hours on Wednesday afternoon, and I am driving along Chaminuka drive from Seke road going to St Mary’s, Chitungwiza. There is a permanent police road block just after St Mary’s police station gate and I am waved to stop. As I stopped I am indicated to pull off the road and complied. A constable in his early 30’s came to my window, identified himself and asked to see my driver’s license. I took my drivers’ license and gave it to him. He looked at it for less than 5 seconds and said, “I want to inspect the vehicle” and I told him told him to return my license first.

He didn’t return the license but said, “Vakuru ridzai bhero renyu” (Elder ring your horn). I remained quiet and didn’t ring the horn. He repeated that for two or three times and then I said “ndipo licence rangu” (bring my licence) for me to comply with your orders.

There were nearly 10 police officers at the road block, four or five of them joined in to enquire what was happening and they were told by their colleague what was happening. One of them placed a spike under my vehicle and l laughed telling them I was not running away. I realised that among the officers at the road block there were two, whom I know and they know me from previous encounters at a road block.

The officers threatened to impound my vehicle and the officer with my license was instructed to get into my car so that they can impound it at St Mary’s police station. I protested and told them that I was not an “accused or arrested” person and that my vehicle was private property. The officer with my license tries to get into the car, but I lock the doors and tell him he is not welcome in my vehicle and he backs off.

He came to my door, handed me my license and his superior tells him to thoroughly inspect my vehicle for compliance with the Road Traffic Act. The officer tells me to ring the horn, put indicator, reverse, break and turning lights. He asks for my spare wheel, jag and wheel spanners which I show him.

The window screen of my vehicle is broken, the rear lamp cover is damaged. He calls me out and says he was charging me for a damaged window screen, rear lamp and worn out left rear wheel. He then said I was supposed to, “pay $30 fine”. I told him that I did not have money with me and he said they were impounding the vehicle.

I told him I was not comfortable with any of the two options he had presented to me because there are other legal ways that do not inconvenience me and that I know spot fine is voluntary. He asked me what I wanted and I told him “You re the police officer you should know what to do with me, but I know what is legal.

The spike is still under my vehicle. The officer attending to me leaves and starts attending to other vehicles. I stood outside my vehicle and an assistant inspector came and asked what the issue was about. I told him that I was being charged with three crimes and had to pay $30 fine but I did not have the money so I needed time to pay whilst enjoying the use of my vehicle.

The assistant inspector left me alone to attend to other issues. I got into my car and pulled off the driver’s seat to take rest. I started playing mbira music at a moderate volume. After an hour, I was feeling hot as the car was parked by the side road side and the sun was now hitting my black face directly.

I got out of the car and followed the arresting officer who was attending to other motorists. I asked him to pull off the spike so that I could park my vehicle under a shade whilst we searched for an amicable solution that was agreeable to both. He refused to pull off the spike.

A sergeant at the road block called me to come where he was and I went. He said to me, “wati hauna mari saka takuenda nemota yako kuChitungwiza Traffic kwaMakoni tozoiendesa kuVID” (you said you don’t have money so we are taking your vehicle to Chitungwiza Traffic and we will surrender it to VID). I told him that I was not going to comply with such rights abusive directives.

The sergeant placed a phone call to his superior, probably stationed at Chitungwiza Traffic at Makoni police station, and he told him my story. The sergeant handed me the phone to talk to his boss who said,”kana usiri kuwirirana nezvawaudzwa paroad block huya kuno nemupurisa toita mapepa tokuudza zuva rekuuya kudare redzimhosva” (if you are not happy with what you were told at the road block come here with the police officer and we will do the papers and advise you the date to come to court).

I agreed to that and asked the sergeant to give me his name and work number. He told to bring a paper to write and I went back to my vehicle and pulled a business card and he wrote at the back of the card. He appeared to be organizing his officers to escort me to Chitungwiza Traffic but no-one seemed to be interested in escorting me.

The sergeant started saying, “hausi kufana kuenda kure neni nokuti unogona kutiza mota yako. Ndakaita psychology saka iwewe ndatokuona mafungiro ako” (you must not go far from me because u can leave your vehicle here. I studied psychology so I have seen your reasoning). I told him I want to visit the toilet he called two officers to escort me to a nearby stony area.

It was now around 1430 hours and I started complaining of hunger and I told the Seargent that I had a right to food so I was now leaving my vehicle so that I could go and get some food whilst I was waiting for him to give me an officer to escort me to Chitungwiza traffic and he refused.

I remained at the road block, now interested in hearing the cases of other motorists. Charged senior citizens without money who were on emergence were given a black counter book where they could write how they intended to pay their fines. One such citizen was male who wanted to go to the airport. He wrote in the book and left his license. After about 30 minutes he came back with $7 and the Inspector who was attending him refused it and wrote him a ticket for $10 and then took the old man’s car keys and told him to make that money $10 so that he could get his keys.

The old man left for some 10 or so minutes talking on his phone and he came back the $10 bond and was given his car keys. By then most of the motorists who had been resisting to pay fines had finally paid and left. At around four there was only myself and another old who had been told to pay $5 but had $3. After some 40 or so minutes he asked his sister he was travelling with to swipe the $5 fine, but the officers now wanted him to swipe $10 saying we can’t swipe $5 and the couple  resisted to swipe.

At around 16 00 hours I then asked the officer who knows me to interfere but he said he could not because I was the one on the offensive. After a few minutes talking to the officer I know, the officer who had placed the spike under my vehicle came and took it away then said to the officer, “make sure this guy does not leave because if he leaves I will get my money from you”. At around 16:15 I was told to go and I left with my vehicle without having paid anything and sure that’s a day at a police road block.