Bulawayo- Motorists in the city have expressed concern over the 2200 percent hike in traffic fines introduced by government last week in an effort to curb the current spate of road carnage occurring in the country.
The development which was announced by Finance Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube, last Thursday during his presentation of the 2019 budget, has since been shot down by motorists who fear that it may bring a rebirth of endemic corruption within the police force.
The hike has seen the maximum traffic fine, previously pegged at $30, shooting to an overwhelming $700.
Maximum road traffic offences, classified under level 3 in the Standard Scale of Fines, include but are not limited to: proceeding against a red traffic light, overtaking over solid lines and having a non-functional foot brake.
“In order to promote road safety culture by adhering to road traffic regulations, the budget proposes that any person who commits such offences be liable to fines of levels 8 to 10, which attract a maximum fine of $700 and imprisonment for a period not exceeding 12 months,” Minister Mthuli Ncube said.
He added that most road accidents are a result of human error hence the move by the government to deter motorists from committing offences.
“Some unlicensed motorists, in particular, public service vehicle drivers continue to risk the lives of passengers and other motorists due to negligent driving,” he said.
However, motorists who spoke to this publication in the city said government should be wary of the unintended consequences the initiative might have.
“The minister might not see this coming but I am certain that this is a big opportunity for corrupt police officers. They will come out full force given the economic hardships we are currently facing,” a motorist from Hillside identified as Mr Msipha said.
Another motorist, Anele Sibanda said, “In my view, I don’t think this is the right step the government is taking towards ending road accidents because it isn’t addressing the real problem. The problem is with drivers who acquire licenses through bribing. These new fines will simple see us being stopped for no apparent reason by police seeking bribes.”
Massive traffic police corruption dogged the police force during ex-President, Robert Mugabe’s reign. The culture was stopped after the inception of President Mnangagwa into office in November last year.
President Mnangagwa, in his fight against corruption, introduced a raft of changes in the force, including the retiring of top brass officers which saw the exit of the overstayed Police Commissioner, Augustine Chihuri.
Some motorists have also called on the government to consider other solutions to ending road carnage other than hiking fines.
“As much as this will deter motorists from committing road offences, I feel like the hike is exceedingly high. I wonder where the offenders will get such kind of money if found on the wrong side of the law. The majority of us are civil servants and these fines are now double our salaries. To me it doesn’t make sense,” another motorist, Ms Wanaka said.
“I also don’t think hiking fines will bring a total end to road accidents because some of these are caused by the poor state of our roads. Government should also show commitment in rehabilitating our roads rather than shifting all blame to motorists,” she added.