There was drama at the Vehicle Inspectorate Department (VID) provincial complex in Masvingo on Tuesday afternoon when one of the officials who had been cornered by undercover detectives reportedly swallowed US$60 he had received as a bribe to facilitate the issuance of a certificate of competency (driver’s licence).
Bekimpilo Sithole (46) of Rhodene allegedly received US$100 in US$20 and US$10 denominations and was arrested by undercover police detectives before he could swallow all the money.
The detectives managed to recover US$40 after wrestling him as he allegedly tried to destroy all the evidence.
The arrest resulted in a near stampede outside Masvingo Provincial Criminal Investigations Department (CID) headquarters as driving school instructors and their bosses sought to negotiate Sithole’s release.
The arrest comes in the wake of incessant reports of corruption by VID officers who were reportedly demanding “facilitation fees” ranging from US$100 to US$150 to issue driver’s licences.
Allegations are that the officials were part of a well-knit syndicate involving driving schools, with instructors acting as the facilitators.
Most VID officers across Masvingo lead flashy lifestyles and own several properties whose value is inconsistent with their earnings.
Masvingo police spokesperson Chief Inspector Charity Mazula yesterday confirmed Sithole’s arrest.
She said investigations were continuing with Sithole expected to appear in court soon.
“He was arrested after police set a trap at VID Masvingo Depot. A trap was set up using US$100 comprising $20 and $10 bills and Sithole swallowed US$60 before the police recovered two US$20 bills from him,” said Chief Inspector Mazula.
“He is being charged with criminal abuse of duty as a public officer under Section 174 of the Criminal Law Codification and Reform Act.”
Chief Inspector Mazula urged people to report all cases of corruption to law enforcement agencies.
According to sources, Sithole allegedly took a learner driver Vincent Kwashira for a road test around noon.
When they returned to the depot, Sithole told Kwashira that he had passed the test. He however, allegedly dilly-dallied in issuing the certificate of competency until Kwashira asked him why he was doing so.
Sithole allegedly demanded US$100 facilitation fees from Kwashira for him to issue the certificate.
Unbeknown to Sithole, Kwashira had already been given marked notes as part of a trap following various complaints levelled against Sithole by learner drivers.
The complainant gave Sithole the money and undercover detectives swooped on him on his way to the office to process the certificate of competency.
Sithole allegedly swallowed some of the notes in a bid to destroy evidence after realising that he had been cornered.
He appeared before Masvingo magistrate Ms Candice Kasere facing criminal abuse of duty as a public officer charges.
Sithole, who was represented by Mr Tichaona Chivasa of Chivasa and Associates, was not asked to plead by Ms Kasere who remanded him out of custody on $3 000 bail to December 16.
Chief Inspector Mazula said police would continue to maintain zero tolerance on corruption.