Harare, Zimbabwe – Hivos Regional Office for Southern Africa (Hivos ROSA) is partnering with Alpha Media Holdings (AMH) and ZiFMStereo, a radio station, to open dialogues on critical issues in Zimbabwe in order to find shared sources of meaning.
“The conversations have provided an opportunity for business leaders to be exposed to alternative thinking, which outside of platforms such as these, they would not have taken note of,” said Tambudzai Madzimure, a Project Manager at Hivos, adding that dialogue holds the promise of healing.
Entitled “AMH Conversations”, the most recent dialogue tackled the contentious issue of police road blocks and spot fines which are commonplace in the country. It is almost impossible to drive in Zimbabwe without being stopped by the police and charged for one thing or another. And police expect motorists to pay a spot fine.
Approximately 100 people, including transporters, ordinary citizens, academics, local and international tourists, lawyers and representatives of civil society organisations, participated in the discussion titled: “Impact of Roadblocks on Civil Liberties and Productivity of Our Nation,” which was also shared via Twitter with the hashtag #AMHRoadBlocks.
Kuda Hove, a lawyer with Veritas, said that while the Zimbabwean law allows police to fine motorists, it does not provide a mandate forcing motorists to pay on the spot. He said the confiscation of license discs is an act of extortion and equated it to blackmailing.
“The worst part is the police that set up roadblocks have no sense of urgency.They will keep you there forever … till you pay,” commented @ChipoMasara via Twitter.
Francis Ngwenya, Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT) president, said that roadblocks and spot fines were impacting negatively on the tourism sector.
“The roadblocks are doing major damage to the Zimbabwe brand, especially in terms of self-drive, which some tourists enjoy. The number of roadblocks are perceived to be too many and the conduct of some policemen is seen as extortion,” he said.
Mfundo Mlilo, director of the Combined Harare Residents Association decried the frequency and timing of roadblocks on Zimbabwean roads.
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“I come across six roadblocks on the way to work. In some countries, you don’t encounter police in the same way like you do in Zimbabwe unless there’s a disaster. We’re concerned that police are now behaving like judges on the roads,” he said.
Prominent academic, Dr Ibbo Manadza, said that Zimbabweans should strive to know their rights pointing out that spot fines and roadblocks were against the law.
Vincent Kahiya, AMH Editor in Chief said that the issue affected everyone who travels on Zimbabwe’s roads, adding that the AMH Conversations were aimed at finding solutions.
“For a long time, Zimbabweans have not been given a platform to speak on issues that affect them. The AMH Conversations provide that platform to tackle pertinent issues and brings together authorities and the public in a productive way,” he said.
Since Hivos began supporting the AMH Conversations, topics that addressed include child labour, technology, Africa and the European Financial Crisis: Opportunities and Risks, among others.