More roadblocks are expected to be removed from the country’s roads following reports that police are using them to harass motorists and solicit bribes, Inspector General of Police, Lextern Kachama has disclosed.
Kachama, who some three months ago ordered the removal of roadblocks at Domasi in Zomba and Mpingu in Lilongwe, said while the primary purpose of roadblocks is to protect life and property, they are also mindful that they treat the general public with the courtesy they deserve.
Weekend Nation findings show that during the past three years, police have removed a number of roadblocks within the city of Lilongwe.
These include a roadblock between Areas 49 and 25, near Injena Filling Station, and another one between Kanengo Industrial Area and Area 30 Police headquarters.
“[But] the removal of the roadblocks is not only as a result of complaints of harassment or officers receiving bribes, but also, to serve the public better,” said Kachama.
He could neither confirm nor deny when put to him that some police officers, who were manning the roadblocks that were removed, may have been soliciting bribes.
He, however, also disclosed that the police will assess the effectiveness of roadblocks.
“Those that will be found not to be strategically placed will be shifted to more tactical locations or closed down altogether.”
The assessment, said the Inspector General of Police, is also aimed at tightening laws to ensure that the barricades are serving intended purposes.
In a related development, the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Public Works has said it is also concerned with the increase in the number of roadblocks on some roads and has since taken up the matter with the Department of Road Traffic and Safety Services (DRTSS).
The committee’s chairperson Victor Mbewe in a telephone interview on Wednesday gave an example of a stretch between Blantyre and Zalewa Roadblock where previously there were more than four permanent roadblocks.
“There are too many on our roads. For your own information, as a committee, we have also received information that some receipts Traffic Police issue are not genuine.’’
Some motorists we spoke to in Lilongwe have, however, expressed frustrations with the frequency of roadblocks on the roads saying it is high time the authorities moved in to bring some sanity.
Madalitso Chipeta, a resident of Area 49 (Gulliver) observed that Malawi is the only country in southern Africa with a lot of roadblocks which serve no purpose at all apart from acting as a nuisance.
Another motorist who only identified himself as Morrison claimed he has on a number of occasions driven on the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 Road without insurance and a certificate of fitness (COF) and easily bribed officers along the way.
The recent decision by DRTSS to hike spot fines and mete out stiff punishment to road users in the name of controlling escalating cases of road accidents in the country has also not gone down well with the Parliamentary Committee.
Spokesperson for DRTSS Angelina Makwecha, however, said government has not introduced any new fines or penalties for traffic offences.