The level of rot at the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) that was exposed in an investigative story we carried yesterday has unravelled the extent to which corruption has ravaged our public system, especially the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development.
VID, which conducts driver training among other duties, has been taken over by criminal gangs that are demanding various amounts from aspiring drivers.
Additionally, VID inspectors are deeply involved in certifying fit unroadworthy vehicles, leading to a surge in deaths on the country’s roads that top 2 000 annually, according to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ).
Over the years, it has become a public secret that for one to acquire a learner’s licence or a full certificate of competence, one has to pay a “mandatory” bribe.
Corruption has almost become second nature to the ministry after another parastatal in the same Ministry, the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) was said to be paying two salaries for two chief executive officers for the past 12 months, while thousands of United States dollars were spent on hairstyle, food hampers, and gym allowances for managers.
What is particularly disconcerting is that corruption was being allowed to continue unabated when the country is battling to contain carnage on the country’s roads.
How can the country hope to stop road carnage when the VID, which is supposed to ensure that only competent drivers are allowed on the country’s roads, is churning out half-baked drivers.
When we say half-baked we are being polite because from our investigations some of the people who are being awarded provisional licences have not even read the Highway Code, which is like the Bible for any prospective driver.
Our undercover reporter got as much as 88 percent yet they have never read the Highway Code.
In our view, if such a person failed to read the Highway Code before they sat for their test, then chances are very high that they never will yet this is the same person who has been certified fit to go on our roads.
If this is happening in the issuance of leaner’s licences there is little left to the imagination as to the calibre of drivers on our roads.
It follows that most of the people who pay to get their provisional licences also pay to pass their road tests without having to go through the proper processes.
This in our view is attributable to the unruly driving that we have been witnessing on our roads of people going through red robots and total disregard of road signs among others.
While what we exposed in our investigations has been widely known for a while, now our humble submission is that the ministry should act quickly to finally stop the rot. While we appreciate that the ministry has been working on computerising the system through the introduction of an Electronic Learner’s Licence Testing System which was launched in Harare in April to enhance transparency and reduce human involvement in the issuance of drivers’ licences, the pace has been slow.
The system seems to be working well in Harare by the admission made by the runners who interacted with our undercover reporter.
“It is now hard to obtain a learner’s licence here in Harare because everything is now computerised. If you are interested, I will take you there anytime as long as you have the $250.
“The document is authentic,” the middleman said.
Our advice to the Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza is that while they are working round the clock to roll out the system, this should happen sooner than later.
The country needs competent drivers now rather than later. In the same vein the ministry should also take a particular interest in some of the officers that are in the department who are known to have acquired ill-gotten wealth.
It is essential that the Ministry follows up on officials such as the female inspector popularly known as “Kedha” who reportedly owns a fleet of luxurious buses, which ply regional routes and who is said to have built a mansion in Borrowdale in a short space of time. These investigations are necessary ahead of the promulgation of the law against unexplained wealth which President Mnangagwa said was in the process of being crafted.
President Mnangagwa told a Political Actors Dialogue (POLAD) meeting at State House recently that the law will empower Government to seize assets from people who fail to disclose the source of their wealth.
“As soon as the unexplained wealth legislation that we are currently seized with comes on our statutes, criminality will never seize to be an attractive venue,” he said.
It is our hope that this law will give impetus to the fight against these corrupt officials and bring sanity to the department and our roads.