Security before convenience. That’s our advice to Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo.While we welcome Government’s directive for police to reduce the number of roadblocks to four per province, measures must be put in place to ensure that criminals do not party on our roads.
As we reported yesterday, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) will from next week unveil standard roadblocks of four per province, as Government responds to concerns raised by tourists and local motorists over high police presence on the roads.
The Home Affairs Minister said this while giving oral evidence before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Transport and Infrastructural Development on Monday. Dr Chombo, who was accompanied by his deputy Cde Obedingwa Mguni, said he had directed Police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri to remove all unnecessary roadblocks.
He also revealed that Government will soon unveil an electronic traffic management system that will integrate all transport stakeholders like the police, Vehicle Inspection Department (VID), Zimbabwe National Roads Administration (zinara), Road Motor Transport and Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) to bring to an end to traffic management challenges.
In light of recent revelations that a number of roadblocks are being mounted by a syndicate of bogus cops who are using spikes and deposit fine books to fleece motorists, this intervention by Government will rid our roads of such criminals while tourists and locals will now enjoy convenience in traveling.
But with convenience, comes added responsibility.
In a September 2014 article, blogger Cheryl Bikowski tackled a very tricky issue: whether the use of personal cellphones by police officers on duty increases convenience or security problems.
“While smartphones have price tags as high as $600 for a new device, this doesn’t come near the cost of a $5 000 police radio. The initial reaction is that all police officers should turn in their bulky radios for a compact cellphone. In addition to being able to use their phones to make calls, they could look up directions, share images of crime scenes and have convenient access to work emails,” Bikowski writes before quipping: “A police radio is constructed to withstand water immersion, high temperatures and high impact. Not even the most expensive mobile device on the market will meet these needs sufficiently. Furthermore, in terms of signal strength, a cellphone would have to operate in all circumstances. Dropped calls, a lost signal and a failed battery are just some of the issues here.”
She also notes: “Another concern with cellphone usage by police officers is personal phone use while on the job.”
The point here is simple; while convenience is a must in modern day policing, security must be taken into consideration. This is why we are pleased to note that Dr Chombo emphasised the need for “a proper balance” between police doing their work and hassle-free travel.
The need for speedy implementation of the integration of ZRP, VID, CVR and zinara cannot be over-emphasised. This will reduce the need for roadblocks. For example, information relating to insurance lapse can be supplied to police beforehand, thereby reducing the need to physically check all vehicles.
Patrols will also maintain police visibility while eliminating the inconvenience of roadblocks. More police details can now be assigned to protect members of the public and their property. Backlogs and “cold cases” will now be a thing of the past.
If four roadblocks are not enough, they can be increased gradually until such a time that police are satisfied that they are on top of the situation. Four roadblocks could turn out to be too many for some provinces, and inadequate in others. In each case, the police can respond efficiently.
Government must be commended for heeding calls from local and foreign travellers. Roadblocks are not a cash cow. They must only be mounted when necessary.
However, security must always come first.