Zim doctors' plea on roadblocks - as hotel promises to pay guests' fines

2016-07-18 13:08


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Harare - Imagine this: you or a family member is seriously ill in Zimbabwe and you call the doctor. But he or she is held up by a police roadblock.

The unthinkable potential consequences of such a situation (and it happens, doctors say) are what have driven a leading association of medical practitioners in Zimbabwe to plead with the authorities to let doctors go quickly through the roadblocks on their way to emergencies - and only return later with the cash to pay a fine.

The Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZIMA) says in a letter to the head of the traffic police: "Some of our members have advised us that they sometimes fail to attend to emergencies at hospitals or their practices in time due to delays at police roadblocks in and around our various towns."

The association complains that police at the checkpoints sometimes detain the doctors or impound their vehicles because they haven't got the ready cash to pay a fine on the spot. Though lawyers say officers should allow you to pay up at a police station later, particularly given Zimbabwe's current cash crunch, that rarely happens in practice. 

Drivers are harassed by traffic officers who demand cash on the spot. The presence of these roadblocks - and the myriad tiny (and ever changing) infractions drivers can be made to pay for - are one of the things that has angered supporters of the #ThisFlag online protest movement, which staged two shutdowns this month. (Only one of them was successful).

Peaceful protests 

The medical association appealed to the police for a "special dispensation" to be given to doctors to allow them to proceed and pay fines for any offences later at police stations when they have attended to their patients.

President Robert Mugabe's government appears to be unwilling to back down on the roadblock issue, with many Zimbabweans suspecting it is used as a fundraising initiative.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo told the privately-owned Standard on Sunday that police were manning what he called security roadblocks "to ensure that those planning to carry out further acts of violence are detected". The authorities insist that #ThisFlag supporters and founders are violent, although the movement has called for only peaceful protests like shutdowns.

The checkpoints put off tourists and self-drive visitors.

In a move to counter this, a leading hotel in Zimbabwe's eastern Vumba region has promised to reimburse the fines guests incur on their way to stay with them.

Leopard Rock Hotel said this weekend that it had been "losing business because of ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] stopping people and fining them arbitrarily on their way to Leopard Rock".

"If you get a ticket on your way to Leopard Rock (not last week's ticket), give us your receipt and we will credit your stay," the hotel added. With its vivid pink turrets and well-known golf course, Leopard Rock is one of the mountainous Vumba region's best-known resorts. It is about 300 km from Harare.

Read more on:    #thisflag  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  zimbabwe protests

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