POLICE officers manning roadblocks have devised new tactics of getting bribes from omnibus operators amid increasing efforts to curb corruption in the force.
Commuter omnibus drivers and conductors who spoke to The Standard in Harare last week said money to pay police officers as bribes was now being collected each morning by a person they trust among themselves before handing it over to the officers.
The person writes the vehicle's registration number against the amount and the police officers would not stop a paid-up vehicle for that entire day.
Delivery of the money is usually not done at the roadblock.
"Those you find with a [Mercedes] Benz at roadblocks, like the one that parks opposite the National Sports Stadium, have someone who collects US$5 from each crew every morning before 7am and records vehicle number plates," said one driver who plies the City-Warren Park route. "This is done so that passengers think the police are no longer corrupt when they do not stop us."
The kombi drivers also said shortage of parking space in the city centre was being manipulated by officers to solicit for bribes.
"In the past, we used to park haphazardly at the ranks but the city council instructed us to line our vehicles along the pavements," a conductor at the City-Mt Pleasant rank said. "We are all afraid of being the last in the sequence because when police arrive, the vehicle at the end is targeted and the crew accused of dangerous parking."
They said the officers demanded at least US$10 for dangerous parking.
Those who fail to pay the bribe are threatened with being taken to city council offices where the fine is US$130.
"We pay US$100 four times a year to operate in these ranks, but the city council is taking too long to identify ranks with adequate parking space," another driver said.
The crews, however, said they were not in support of council's proposal to establish ranks outside the central business district saying that would cause unnecessary inconvenience to their clients.
On Thursday, The Standard team witnessed one kombi crew being taken to task for dangerous parking, after two police officers pounced on the last vehicle which was parked in a queue at the City-Mt Pleasant rank along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue.
Public transporters said they were frustrated by the behaviour of police officers, which they said did not seem to change even when they have all the documentation required.
"In the past, they asked for licences, road permits, re-test papers, tax certificates and most operators have done their best to ensure they have these," a conductor said. "They outlawed touting and we complied but they continue bothering us.
"A few days ago, two officers deflated tyres from my vehicle after I refused to bribe them when they accused me of 'silent touting' when they found a board showing my route displayed on the vehicle."