Police corruption in Zimbabwe has become endemic during times of Covid-19 lockdown as citizens now call US $ 10 the ‘national identity card’ to pass a roadblock.
Police corruption is the misuse of police authority for personal gain.
Examples include extortion (demanding money for not writing tickets) and bribery (accepting money in exchange for not enforcing the law).
The World Bank (1997) defines corruption as the abuse of public office through rent-seeking activities for private gain when an official accepts, solicits or extorts a bribe.
Zimbabwe is ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2020 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.
On a scale of 0 (very corrupt) to 100 (very clean), the Corruption Perception Index score for Zimbabwe was only 24.
Roadblocks are often used to extort property or bribes.
The majority of Zimbabweans perceive the police as the most corrupt institution in the country.
According to Afrobarometer, May 2015, one in four respondents who have been in contact with the police had paid a bribe to obtain a service or avoid problems and business leaders generally show a low level of trust. in the reliability of the police.
Police often set up roadblocks for border control, road safety and crime control.
The stated purposes of roadblocks are usually legalized verification of licenses and registrations, proof of citizenship and seat belt use.
In practice, none of this happens.
Police no longer have “traffic tickets” which give motorists the choice of either appearing in court or confessing guilt and paying bail for the fine.
In this regard, police corruption has succeeded in undermining the wheels of growth and development in Zimbabwe in the following ways:
The consumption of time as a resource in the production process.
Time is one of the most important resources for individuals and businesses as well as for the national economy.
Nicoleta Caragea (2010) concluded that the economic well-being of a country, measured by GDP, depends on working time.
There is a direct correlation between GDP and time, as such, increasing the time allocated to work could be a source of economic growth.
In Zimbabwe, a lot of productive time is wasted due to police roadblocks as drivers take a long time to pay the required bribes.
For example, about two months of productive time is lost by a single worker in police roadblocks in a year.
At one point I took a road trip for a 90 km trip, noting the approximate time we expected at the roadblock, which ranged from five to 20 minutes.
To give an average stopping time of 12.5 minutes per roadblock, there were four police roadblocks within 90 km, so the average time lost on the round trip was 1 hour 40 minutes.
Translating this into a five-day shift, the time lost would be around 8 hours 20 minutes.
In a 52-week year, that would turn into 433.33 hours lost, which equates to 54 working days of 8 hours each, or about two months.
Forex Leaks and Financial Disintermediation
In order for motorists to pass the roadblock, they must give the police a minimum of US $ 10 in bribes, as such individuals must take hard cash with them in order to pass the roadblocks. Using the example of my 90 km road trip with four roadblocks, a single vehicle will have to leave US $ 40 per trip, assuming a minimum of 30 vehicles pass, leaving US $ 40 each.
With three agents, that would mean that each brings in US $ 100 per day and US $ 500 per five-day week, and in one year each collects about US $ 26,000 (500 per 52 weeks).
Most of the money is totally withdrawn from the local circular flow as it is spent on importing Japanese cars or overseas produced goods paid for in cash.
Taking the situation at the national level, assuming four such roads in each province, with four police roadblocks, in the 10 provinces of the country, approximately
US $ 12,480,000 (26,000 by three officers at four roadblocks in 10 provinces) is lost due to police corruption and leaving the flow circular, mainly fueling imports.
While over $ 12 million can be lost due to police corruption every year, it can clearly be seen that police corruption is indeed crippling for the growth of the economy.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, transport demand has become less elastic as individuals face limited options, as such transport owners have decided to shift the burden of bribes entirely to passengers by doubling the price.
On this 90 km route, the usual transportation rates are $ 5 each way, but due to the increase in roadblocks on this route, the rate is now US $ 10, as transportation owners would say that the he price increase is due to the roadblocks where they have to leave money.
Because the corruption money on the roadblocks is paid in hard cash, it suddenly resulted in an increase in demand for forex.
Since it is easier to obtain foreign currency on the black market, the black market exchange rate between the Zimbabwean dollar and the US dollar has exploded.
This in turn resulted in a delay in the official exchange rate published by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
The exchange rate difference widens the income gap between rich and poorer civil servants who receive their salaries in national currency and use the black market to obtain US dollars. This therefore means that Zimbabwe will find it difficult to ensure income equality and economic development in the presence of this type of police corruption.
l High levels of fines. This encourages both the public and the police to settle for a bribe less than the payment of the full fine. According to Bill Watch from March 2021, on January 28, 2021, A level 1 fine of $ 200 increased to $ 1,000, A level two fine of $ 300 increased to $ 2,000, A level three fine, which was $ 500, is now $ 5,000, and the remaining fines have been doubled. As such, a rational motorist would therefore opt for a bribe of US $ 10 which is the cheapest option.
l Locate the fines. The decision to allow the police to keep the fines they collect creates an incentive to over-regulate traffic and an incentive to find the greatest number of motorists guilty of traffic offenses, real or imagined, and makes it easier for them to collecting bribes and demanding them as well.
l Public disclosure of official roadblock locations. In countries like Kenya, during the lockdown, authorities released a list of places where police would set up roadblocks in affected counties to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
This is important because it will reduce the number of bogus police and rent-seeking police on the roads across the country.
To my knowledge, no such announcement has been made in Zimbabwe.
The need to reduce fines in order to reduce the incentive to settle for a bribe.
Identify which fines to drop in order to eliminate police officers’ access to money while on duty, instead fines could be billed and paid, for example, when paying license fees.
Authorize the payment of fines in the form of deposits or transfers only in order to promote financial intermediation.
List publicly all the places where roadblocks will be erected in the country.
International engagement with organizations such as the OECD Anti-Corruption Convention.
Benhilda Gwacha Dube is an economist
* These weekly opinion pieces are coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, independent consultant, former president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and former president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe.