By Norma Tsopo
MUTARE – Pervasive police check-points are causing tourism industry players persistent headaches in their efforts to package Zimbabwe as an attractive tourist destination.
A national branding consultative meeting roundly accused them for relentlessly seeking to fleece motorists thereby becoming a liability in the country’s tourism brand image building efforts.
Police came under fire over their resistance to cut down the number of their check points and reform their policing approach which is widely viewed as extortionist particularly towards vehicles with foreign number plates.
“Tourists who speak well about Zimbabwe are those who travel by air. This is a real issue we need to deal with as a nation. It’s something we can’t ignore,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) official Remington Mpande told the meeting.
Hospitality association of Zimbabwe (HAZ) representative Brian Nyakutombwa told the meeting that hotel guest feedback platforms are consistently portraying police as hostile.
“Guest feedback commentaries are consistently showing that police are perceived as hostile. As seeking to fleece any vehicle that has foreign registration,” Nyakutombwa said.
He said police needed to be romped in the committees that are being formed to spruce up the country’s image.
“We need government departments like the police and port of entry officials under the ministry of finance to be part of nation image building taskforce so that they also fully understand the tourism sector and effect of their conduct,” Nyakutombwa said.
The HAZ official said if almost all road users complain about the police the effect was even worse with international travelers.
“The elephant in the room currently is that of police road blocks. Our police roadblocks are hostile to the travelling public and worse still to a foreign traveler,” he said.
Africa University lecturer Thomas Chisese said the announcement that police roadblocks had been cut down to four per province and then claiming that their continued heavy presence was due instead to police check points failed public relations attempt.
“The other time the Minister of Home Affairs said the number of road blocks had been restricted to only four per province and the next day they are calling them check points and to me and everyone else they are still roadblocks,” he said.
He said police were contributing to the country’s current image of being dismal and dysfunctional which needs to be addressed before branding efforts are made.
“It is important to monitor and evaluate existing country image perceptions and to manage these effectively. Such perceptions can be a powerful asset or a severe liability.
“Identified problems needed to be addressed before any branding work can be undertaken”.
He puzzled over how managing police duties are not being managed in a way that would allow them to do their work in a way that did not affect the country’s image.
“If police are creating a bad image for the country what is stopping us from dealing with them?” he puzzled.