By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
29 May 2014
In what observers see as endorsement of police corruption, a senior government official has justified the decision to allow the police to retain all money collected from traffic spot fines, claiming the proceeds are used to meet the ZRP’s operational needs.
Appearing before parliament, Home Affairs permanent secretary Melusi Matshiya pleaded with Treasury to continue allowing the police to retain spot fines, saying the money is used to purchase uniforms. Matshiya claimed that police officers were so ashamed of their worn out attire that they were ‘shy’ to attend to crime scenes but the situation had improved since the police were allowed to retain the money they collected.
Matshiya made these claims despite refusing to disclose how much the police are collecting every month, choosing only to reveal that the force was second to the national tax collector in revenue collection. He also did not disclose how the money from spot fines was managed.
A few months ago, a senior assistant police commissioner also told Parliament that police were not obliged to hand over gold recovered from criminal scenes.
These details come at a time when public anger and frustration with police corruption is high. Daily, members of the public take to the social media to complain about traffic cops who force them to pay either bribes or spot fines for cooked up offences.
Bulawayo Agenda Executive Director Thabani Nyoni said: ‘The issue of spot fines reveals the extent to which corruption has been institutionalized.’ He said the correct situation will for the government to introduce a law stipulating the procedures to be followed in the collection and management of the spot fines, to curb corruption.
Nyoni said by openly endorsing ‘unaccountable revenue collection’ by the police the government is admitting that corporate corruption was now a project to cover up for the state’s failure to manage the economy, pay its civil servants and improve service delivery.
In March SW Radio Africa reported on the extent of the collapse of service delivery across the board with state departments and parastatals failing to pay their bills. Observers blamed the situation on corruption, but it is police corruption in particular that has riled members of the public, as the police are supposed to be law enforcers.
So endemic is police corruption that even police commissioner Augustine Chihuri was two months ago forced to try and minimize it by transferring as many as 2,000 cops from the traffic and minerals units, from urban to remote areas and vice versa around the country.
A few years ago a regional anti-corruption trust found that the Zimbabwean traffic cops were the most corrupt in Southern Africa. Last year Africa Barometer, a research project which measures public attitudes on socio-economic issues, found that Zimbabwe was the third most corrupt African country after Nigeria and Egypt.