Anti-roadblocks demo turns violent

Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri

AN anti-riot police officer was injured yesterday as a demonstration by Kwekwe commuter omnibus operators against the increasing number of roadblocks and corruption turned nasty. The cop, whose name could not be established, was injured as the raging commuter operators started throwing stones and missiles at anti-riot police who were called in to quell the protest.

An angry mob of commuter omnibus operators reportedly gathered at a roadblock mounted at Lancashire Steel turn-off were they started chanting revolutionary songs denouncing the police, who were manning the roadblock accusing them of being corrupt.

Anti-riot police reacted swiftly and attempted to crush the protest resulting in a violent clash between the two groups.

This led to the cop getting injured and seven touts were arrested.

The touts were still detained at Kwekwe Central Police Station by 7pm last night and are likely to face charges of public violence and assault.

Our Midlands Bureau visited Kwekwe and witnessed passengers intending to travel to Mbizo and Redcliff stranded as commuter omnibuses plying the Redcliff and Mbizo routes were parked at the Zanu-PF Kwekwe District headquarters where they reportedly sought refuge after police threatened to deal with them at the terminus.

Kombi drivers said they usually pay police $5 every morning and they would not be bothered the rest of the day.

“Today we found three roadblocks mounted by police officers between Kwekwe and Redcliff. The cops at each roadblock were demanding $10. We make about $35 on good days and paying would mean killing our business,” said a driver who declined to be named.

He said drivers who refused to pay were forced to park by the roadside while their colleagues took advantage of the rush hour.

Redcliff Kwekwe Omnibus Operators Association (RKOA) Chairman, Claudius Chaka confirmed the incident saying police were fleecing them.

“Mbizo Police Station, Amaveni Police Camp and Kwekwe Central police officers all come to mount one roadblock where each camp will be fining you differently. At the end of the day you work for the police,” said Chaka.

A tout said: “The fact that the three camps were reportedly demanding a $10 fine meant that each commuter was forking out a total of $30 for a day’s operations, a move which irked the commuter operators.”

Officer Commanding Police Kwekwe District, Chief Superintendent David Tiese said he was disturbed by the commuter operators’ actions.

“It’s really saddening that it has come to this. I am disturbed with the way you (commuter operators) have tried to solve this issue. Public disorder is a serious crime. If there is any problem you should approach us for a discussion,” he said.

By the time of going to print, the commuter omnibuses were still parked at the party office awaiting the outcome of a meeting between police chiefs, RKOA representatives and Zanu-PF officials.

The high number of police roadblocks on the country’s roads has been blamed for scaring away tourists and affecting the ease of doing business.

Police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri has defended the roadblocks saying people who criticised heavy police presence on the roads had sinister motives. – Herald