Policeman Kidnapped, Beaten Up
Harare, Zimbabwe, 11 December 2009
Police in Harare are still looking for a public minibus (Kombi) crew that kidnapped a policeman on Thursday and beat him up as they drove off to an unknown destination.
The incident happened in Harare, where the police have launched an operation called "Chenai" (Be Clean), in which they are trying to clean up congestion in the city by ensuring that public transport vehicles carry and drop off people only at designated points. The police have also mounted roadblocks where they are checking on the conditions of cars and the like.
Yesterday, at the extremely chaotic western end of the City Centre in Harare, where most Kombis congregate, the police were in the process of enforcing the "designated pick-up and drop-off points" rule when one of them boarded a minibus that was trying to pick up people. The policeman apparently asked the minibus crew to drive to Central Police Station in Harare with him, but they sped off in a different direction and onlookers could see the conductor of the minibus busy pummeling the poor policeman as his driver drove off.
A squad car nearby gave chase but failed to catch up with the Kombi and the policeman is still to be found as of today.
I am sure the number plates of the Kombi was taken down by someone and that it will not be too difficult to find the culprits, but it is the sheer audacity of the crew that takes the breath away.
It is understandable though, because, as even the ZANU PF Minister of Transport admitted about a month ago, policemen in Zimbabwe, especially Traffic Police, are notoriously corrupt. They boast that they can never fail to find fault with a vehicle on the road and intimidate motorists by asking them to come to the police station with them to pay fines.
They never agree to issue tickets that can be paid later and this is so that the motorists cough up immediately.
Public transport has it particularly bad, especially considering that the vehicles are manned by employees who mostly rely on commission for income. The more the police delay them during peak hours, the more money they lose, so the crews end up just parting with money so that they can continue work and earn a living.
But they resent the police very much and I am certain that the poor policeman who was beaten up yesterday found a crew that had had it up to the gills with extortion. They were in a no-nonsense mood.