As motorists adapt to a changed policing regime, it is becoming harder and harder for the Botswana Police Service (BPS) to make money through its long-running stop-and-fine operation.
In terms of this controversial operation, each police station in the country is supposed to raise P10 000 a day from fines. With 80 stations across the country, the Service would net a neat P80 000 a day and P2.4 million a month. From what Sunday Standard learns however, no station has been able to consistently meet that very lofty target.
“The amount we are now expected to raise in one quarter is equivalent to what we accumulate over a whole year under normal circumstances,” says a police source.
In the early days of the operation, incautious motorists forked out a lot of money but with the progress of time, the latter are acclamatising by observing the Road Traffic Act to the letter. The irony is that, such ideal situation has a downside for the police because it makes it extremely difficult for them to reach targets set for them. Concern has been raised by some members of the public that in their quest to reach targets, police officers basically shake them down. One specific charge is that some officers falsely claim that motorist ran red lights when they didn’t. The power relations of a traffic stop are heavily skewed in favour of the police and all too often, motorists have no choice but to pay a fine for the trumped-up charges.
For too long now, BPS stations across the country has been experiencing acute shortage of patrol vehicles and the money raised from this operation was supposed to be used to solve this problem. However, sources say that the additional income has not had any observable impact as vehicles are still being bought at the usual rate. That means that the vehicle shortage problem persists.
Some police officers are not too happy about this operation because it requires them to do something (fundraising) that distracts from what they signed up for ÔÇô fighting crime.
For a country whose president (Lieutenant General Ian Khama) has periodically sought to portray it as better than yesteryear’s Zimbabwe, it is interesting that Botswana would carry out an operation of this nature. Under Mugabe, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) also conducted a similar operation over a protracted period of time. Last year July, the former Minister of Home Affairs, Ignatius Chombo, told parliament that ZRP collects P150 million annually. When Mugabe was toppled by the army in November last year, the operation stopped and motorists can now drive and breathe easier. In Botswana, the operation continues unabated.