by Brenna Matendere
Some members of the police in Mvuma are in the eye of a storm following reports that they are demanding protection fees from illegal vendors, pirate taxis and foreign currency dealers operating in the mining town.
The officers allegedly demand bribes to process exemption letters for illegal traders to move around during the Covid-19 national lockdown.
Among those allegedly paying bribes to get protection from arrest are illegal vendors, forex dealers and pirate taxi owners operating within the town as well as those ferrying passengers to surrounding towns like Gweru, Masvingo and Chivhu.
Sources said illegal vendors and forex dealers targeting Zimbabweans returning from South Africa who stop over at local fastfood outlets are made to pay $20 while pirate taxi operators commonly known as mushika-shika, must fork out up to $500 every week.
People wishing to acquire exemption letters to travel from Mvuma to other parts of the country are allegedly made to pay US$5 to get the papers.
Contacted for comment, Mvuma police officer-in-charge, Inspector Barbra Mashawiro immediately switched off her phone.
According to the sources, the police officers use two well-known vendors in the town to collect the money.
“If you refuse to pay that money, you are arrested. In fact, one of us is serving community service after he refused to pay the daily bribes on a bad day where he had not made any money. He was arrested and taken to court,” said the source.
One of the vendors (name withheld) allegedly working with the police confirmed that she collects money from informal traders but refused to divulge its destination and purpose.
“Yes, I collect money from the people I work with and they know its purpose, which I can’t tell you. Look, just write what you want, I do not care. Who told you I am into bribes, am I a police officer?” she fumed.
Midlands police officer commanding crime, Assistant Commissioner Teddious Mandondo, said his office would investigate the corruption reports.
“Firstly, I am receiving those reports for the first time from you. They are news to me,” he said.
“But now that the media has been attracted by such reports of corruption against our officers, I can give a strong assurance that my office will get to the bottom of the issue. We will investigate the allegations.
“In particular, those exemption letters to travel must not be subject of any payment,” Mandondo said.