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Motorists bemoan police roadblocks

by Staff reporter
15 Jul 2021 at 09:18hrs | Views
Last month, President Mnangagwa announced the country's Covid-19 Level 4 lockdown to curb the Delta variant, which was first detected in India and has found its way to Zimbabwe and other parts of the world.   

As of July 13, 2021, the official Covid-19 statistics recorded in Zimbabwe stood at 73 271 cases, 48 102 recoveries and 2 274 deaths. Active cases stood at 22 895.  

The current Level 4 lockdown has imposed a night-time curfew between 6.30pm and 6 am and reduced working hours from 8 am to 3.30p.m, with workplaces allowed to operate on 40 percent of capacity.   

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has been entrusted with implementing lockdown regulations.   While this has been going on smoothly in most parts of the country, the same cannot be said of two police roadblock check points — one at  Hunyani Bridge just after St Marys Police Station along Seke Road from Chitungwiza to Harare and the other at Mabvuku turn off along the Harare-Mutare Highway.   

Over the past week, motorists coming from Chitungwiza and Mabvuku have bemoaned having torrid times at these roadblocks and this week is no exception.  

For example on Tuesday, in particular, motorists coming into Harare and some going to Chitungwiza were stranded at Hunyani Bridge, all locked in a long winding traffic jam.   

"My brother, we have been in this queue for more than two hours," complained one motorist.  

"This roadblock is now notorious for delaying drivers to work and other emergencies. Imagine some of us are going to work and we have to wait in the queue until around 9 am to clear. This is not fair."    

While, the police should be commended for enforcing the lockdown, their modus operandi, as in the case at these two notorious roadblocks, need to be revised if complaints by citizens are anything to consider. It is accepted that lockdowns affect the normal way of doing business, but this should not derail people from using the little hours they have to conduct business, attend to their medical needs, etc.   

It is not the presence of the police roadblocks that has enraged motorists, but it is the manner in which police are conducting their business, which is creating chaos.  

Rather than control the movement of people, the police are rather just stopping people, despite the fact that some are essential service providers in the Government and the private sector whose presence is essential for the economy to remain functional.   

"I am a bank teller and we are supposed to start serving customers at 8 am, but right now it is 9 am and I am still trapped in this jam," said a middle aged man who identified himself as Joseph.    

The roadblock at Hunyani Bridge not only delays people to get to their places of work, but also poses a risk to the bridge infrastructure. The roadblock is manned a few metres from the bridge — vehicles make a long queue starting right on top of the bridge.   

Despite the fact that this is a way to ensure that all vehicles in and out of Chitungwiza pass through the road block, this causes congestion over the bridge, which should not be subjected to stress from the weight of cars.   Some motorists have also blamed the police for deliberately creating chaos at these two check points by causing unnecessary delays while demanding exemption letters during normal working hours.   

As a regulation, under Level 4, exemption letters are not a requirement during normal working hours from 8 am to 3.30pm, but beyond that from 6 pm to 6 am when curfew starts, travellers are required to show proof of their essential service providers.  

This has led police officers to demand exemption letters from motorists and passengers, most of whom are without exemption letters in the morning, thereby creating a more than 5-kilometre long traffic jam. This week, some motorists who were delayed at the Seke road check point took to social media platforms, including Twitter, to register their disappointment with the delays at the hands of the police.   

"I think these areas are going to be Covid-19 hotpots soon because of the ridiculous number of motorists grouped at these road checkpoints," said one netizen.  

"People end up moving about and talking to each other as they try to kill time and this is a potential Covid-19 super spreader point."  

Motorists have also urged the police to conduct swift Covid-19 inspection and allow people to get to their places of work and back home in time during normal working hours and only demand exemption letters during the curfew designated times.

Source - the herald

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