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Are Road Block Searches Legal?

I RECENTLY travelled to South Africa by road and shortly after starting off from Harare I was stopped by the police at a road block on the outskirts of the city.

The police detail demanded to see what was in the trailer that I was towing. I asked why he wanted to see what was in the trailer and what he was looking for. He stated that he was looking for weapons. I and my partner are both over 70 and were accompanied by a young child of seven years old.

I opened the trailer and he demanded to see what was under the suitcases which were packed tight for the journey.

My partner replied that we would have to be stupid to have anything under the suitcases at which point an altercation arose and the former said he would delay us and was arresting my partner for calling him stupid.

After some considerable time the police then insisted that we go to Mbare Police Station, which we did, taking two of them with us.

I found it strange that no one had asked for our name or any other form of identification. We eventually got to see a senior officer who did ask who we were and he explained that it was a security road check and allowed us to proceed. We resumed our journey after some considerable delay.

I am quite used to traffic road checks for licences and vehicle lights but this was my first experience of a security road check and I request that the police should provide a notice in the event of a specific security check so that the general public become aware that a search may take place.

Search is a very personal operation which involves an invasion of privacy and is why a search warrant issued by a magistrate is necessary to search individual premises or there is a reasonable suspicion for a search to take place.

As far as I am aware there is no state of emergency in Zimbabwe and a general search of all vehicles is not actually allowed in terms of the constitution. However the police may be able to correct me and advise of the correct position. I am sure that the general public would like to know their rights.

I do believe that police officers should also be properly trained because the police officer concerned had no idea of how to carry out an arrest which requires the symbolic detention of the individual, an explanation of the precise law or reason for the detention and requires that the policeman knows the name of the individual he is detaining. People cannot be arrested for many of the minor offences under the law.

P W Bailey,


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