Codelia Mondela Bulawayo Bureau
Home Affairs Deputy Minister Obedingwa Mguni says Government has placed an order for breathalysers and these will be issued to the police soon. This was after the realisation that drunken drivers have been getting away scot-free since there has been no breath test kits since 2010.
“I do not know the exact date when they will be issued, but they were ordered alongside the new ticketing system,” he said.
“You can contact police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba for the date of delivery,” he said.
Standard police breathalysers cost as little as $6 per kit.
The tests are needed to prove the level of alcohol in a person’s system at the time of an accident. Without them, drivers have been successfully arguing in court that they were not drunk.
Causing an accident while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to section 55 of the Road Traffic Act chapter 13:11(2) (a), should earn a public transport or heavy vehicle driver between two and 15 years in prison.
Section 55 (2) (b) provides for a fine of up to $5 000, up to 10 years imprisonment or both fine and imprisonment. Police have to prove the driver had a concentration of at least 150 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the offence.
Sources in the police traffic section told our Bulawayo Bureau that such proof could only be provided through a breath or blood test.
“We last had breathalysers around 2010,” said the source, a traffic police officer.
“The truth is that we have since stopped charging people with drunken driving because they can successfully deny the charge in court. Without proof of a breath or blood test, our case is weak. We have to pray the culprit pleads guilty.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba last Friday said she was not aware of the issue.
“I do not know anything about that,” she said.
“I am busy, I am in a meeting.”
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) spokesperson Mr Tatenda Chinoda Udhege told our Bulawayo Bureau that statistics for fatal accidents, where drivers were suspected to be drunk were not available for the past seven years due to a shortage of breathalysers.
“Negligent drivers would not be deterred from driving under the influence of alcohol since it can’t be proved,” he said.
A prosecutor at one of the magistrate’s courts, who cannot be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the last conviction they had of a person suspected to be driving under the influence of alcohol was in 2013.
He said the person had pleaded guilty.
In July there was an uproar in Nkulumane, Bulawayo when a police officer, Constable Munyaradzi Mupfawa, lost control of his vehicle and rammed into a house, injuring two children aged six and 11, while allegedly in a drunken stupor.
The community was irked when he was not charged with drunken driving.