Anger mounts in Zim after mom is handcuffed in front of kids at police roadblock

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Harare - Did overzealous police officers at a checkpoint in Zimbabwe really handcuff a woman in front of her crying children because she objected to being fined over a third number plate sticker?

Apparently they did, if a post by popular Zimbabwe Facebook community WhatsApp Harare is to be believed.

Zimbabwe's roadblock police, and the fines they extort for a myriad of tiny infractions, are the topic of angry conversations both on and offline every day in the southern African country. 

Tourism industry officials are worried the roadblocks will put off self-drive visitors. Even the official Herald newspaper - normally loyal to President Robert Mugabe's government - publishes articles critical of the roadblocks.

This time traffic cops really appear to have gone over the top.

"OK, enough is enough," says the post, by a driver who claims a weekend trip from Harare to the popular resort of Kariba was "totally ruined" by the roadblocks. 

Angry reactions 

"I am incensed by the injustice dealt to this one young woman at a Chinhoyi roadblock," he  continues. "[She and her family] were told that their 3rd number plate on their trailer was 'defaced'. 

"When they argued, the woman police officer became rude and abusive. So much so that their three young daughters in the car began to cry with genuine fear. The mother decided to video the ranting policewoman."

"Next thing she is handcuffed in front of her screaming children and placed under a tree, while her husband and children are escorted to Chinhoyi police station," reads the post. The driver says he managed to persuade the police to let him transport the unnamed woman (plus a cop) to the police station. The post has a photo of a young woman in handcuffs outside a car.

Likely because Zimbabweans have had enough of daily extortion by traffic police, the story has been widely-shared, including by former education minister David Coltart.

The post is provoking angry reactions, both on the WhatsApp Harare page it was first posted to on Tuesday, and on other pages.

Wrote FB user Mildred Nyasha Mugauri Chigorimbo: "That officer should be answerable, if she can be identified from the video. This is inhumane, cruel and disgusting. No wonder the community has no respect for them, because they haven't earned it and DO NOT deserve it." 

Fine for a dirty car 

User Micky Beverley wrote: "I think they will not be paid their wages this month - that's why they are desperately trying to get money for any reason possible."

Fidelis Tawanda Moyo said: "I was stopped exactly 20 times from Harare to Byo [Bulawayo]. 20 roadblocks or should I say fund raising booths."

According to a state media report in November, the police do not hand over all the fine money to treasury, "but retain some of it for internal use".

Last month, a driver from the southern city of Masvingo was sentenced to 10 years in jail after he sped off from a roadblock. A traffic cop hung onto his bonnet, but fell off and was injured.

The state-owned Chronicle reported on Wednesday that a Beitbridge police officer had been arrested for stealing R1.1m over a six-month period by only pretending to deposit "his employer's money" in the bank. It was not immediately clear if the money had been collected at roadblocks.

Police may try to fine you for having a "dirty car", having the wrong kind of honeycomb reflective tape and for not having proof your portable fire extinguisher has been recently serviced.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
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