Social issues commentator Hesi Chikoko scoffs off Malawi police’s use of drums for roadblocks

Use of drums elsewhere outside Malawi

* Where do the police officers get those old drums?

* Are they the most cost-effective way of stopping cars?

* How much does it cost to buy them?

* And how do they record those old drums in their accounts — ‘270 old drums for traffic policing’?

By Duncan Mlanjira

Most police officers at roadblocks, especially those close to police stations, mount drums in the middle of the road to indicate their presence.

And once done for the day, they roll them to the side of the road for use hours later or for the following day.

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Foreign-based social issues commentator, Hesi Chikoko — who is in currently in the country — has scoffed off this tendency in Malawi and several African countries (including Zimbabwe), asking why they are still stuck to this tradition of using old drums for police roadblocks.

“Let me get this off my chest! he said. “I have been privileged to drive in a number of countries in Europe and Africa. I have been observing police roadblocks in several countries.

“Why is Malawi (and Zimbabwe) still stuck to using old drums for police roadblocks? Is an old drum the only and most effective thing to stop cars?

Chikoko

“Where do the police officers get those old drums? Are they the most cost-effective way of stopping cars? How much does it cost to buy them? And how do they record those old drums in their accounts — ‘270 old drums for traffic policing’?

“Aren’t some families failing to buy drums for rainwater harvesting or water storage just because the police have bought them all? Especially considering the number of police road blocks one finds on Malawi roads!

“Other countries have some appropriate road barriers made for that specific  purpose. Why are we stuck to these old drums?

“I drove past some roadblock at around midnight and the police were closing the roadblock — you should have seen police constables, sergeants, sub-inspectors and deputy assistant commissioners busy rolling old drums off the road to the bushes on the roadside.

“Quite some work! Maybe they deserve that — knowing how rude some of these roadblock police offices can be. We should perhaps give them more drums to roll before and after work.

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“On a serious note, can we move away from this rudimentary solution and use barriers made for policing? Otherwise this rudimentary thinking makes the country think in a rudimentary and mediocre way — mwa chi drum-drum eeeh!

“Before we know it, it will be drum-thinking and drum-decision making all over. We will be a country of drums! Or do I observe too much? Should I just chill? And let the Malawi police use their drums? They even paint them!”

To which Chipiliro Munthali responded, saying these are “sponsored drums” by the private sector, saying “the sponsor paints their brand on them [which is] very cheap drum marketing”.

Roadblock shelter at Liwonde Police Station

The private sector make use of free advertising of their brands as a way of running away from paying advertisement billboards from Councils.

Chizamsoka Manda said: “Well said. I underline ‘many roadblocks in Malawi’ — they’re an inconvenience.”

Meanwhile, one unnamed concern citizen is warning motorists whose cars are not registered for picking up fare-paying passengers along the Blantyre-Lilongwe M1 Road that the Road Traffic Directorate has deployed spies — “possibly registered taxi services vehicle drivers” — to be reporting those they find doing the illegal practice.

This tendency had boomed in recent years using vehicles such as Toyota Sienta and Honda Freed where they pick fare-paying passengers (matola) at Kameza in Blantyre and at the place called Mathanki in Lilongwe.

Toyota Sienta

Honda Freed

Many do it as a source of livelihood while others just want those travelling their way to contribute towards fuel in which each passenger is charged the fare they could have paid if they had used a commuter bus.

The concerned citizens discloses that the spies have been tasked to just take a picture of the culprit motorist’s registration number and send  on a WhatsApp group whose some of the members — the police or the Road Traffic Directorate officers — wait for at a road block they have mounted where they stop the vehicle and heavily fine the motorist.

He revealed that the traffic authorities first confiscated the motorist’s driver’s licence before showing the picture of the number plate and and passengers boarding the vehicle.

They then proceed to declare the offence Committee before print it out and the fine to be paid which gives the motorist a specified period to pay.

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Many travellers to and from Lilongwe and Blantyre opt to use these unregistered vehicles through pick up points of Pa Mathanki and Kameza since they are deemed convenient and fast as opposed to the commuter buses — which can be a nuisance since they do not run on schedule.

These bus operators wait until all passenger seats are occupied before they start off and can take hours — thus travellers preferring for the matola service, an illegal trade which has repercussions in case of accidents since they are not insured for such eventualities.

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