My basic understanding of the purpose of police checks on the country’s roads is that they help law enforcers intercept movement of illegal substance or criminal suspects from one point to another, ultimately ensuring maximum security for the people of Malawi.
Hence, there is no denying of the fact that police checks, no matter how boring or inconveniencing they may be at times, are an important element in ensuring that we live in a crime-free environment.
Indeed, the act of being stopped by a police officer or being ordered to get off a bus to allow for a police search can be tedious, but the bottom line remains that such checks are a necessity this country cannot afford to do away with.
However, what puzzles me sometimes is the selective manner in which the checks are conducted, especially in relation to people who use public transport.
Although it is obvious that police have their own tactics of conducting the checks, so as not to bother every motorist travelling on the roads, I can’t help wondering why passengers on executive coaches are rarely asked to get off the buses at police road blocks such as Zalewa in Neno.
In most cases, the luxurious executive buses will just stop for a few minutes close to the police barricade and in no time, they are allowed passage to their destinations.
Meanwhile, local buses are diverted to a search zone where passengers are asked, or ordered, to disembark the bus to allow police officers to conduct a search.
I know class divisions warrant different choices of the mode of transportation that people use, the same way our eating or dressing habits are directed by how fat or thin one’s pocket is.
But do the social strata extend to the kind of treatment that passengers should get at the hands of police at these road blocks?
If the police checks are about checking criminal activity, who said those in the upper social class do not get involved in criminal activity, so that they should be accorded the lenient search mechanisms?
If the police checks are about checking the movement of illegal substance, who said the affluent in society cannot be a part of syndicates that are transporting prohibited substance to and from various parts of the country?
With the sophisticated levels at which criminal activities are taking place in the world, it makes little sense to attach crime-related stereotypes to social classes, because as somebody argued the other day, criminals never have labels attached to their foreheads or shirts.
Such that by focusing attention on the passengers in local buses, police officers could be wasting their energies on the wrong group of people when criminal activity is rife in the opposite direction.