Reports this week that Government is ready to invoke the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act Chapter IV, Section 38 to charge police officers, and possibly throw offenders in jail for 10 years or fine them $3 000, provided intriguing news.
Surely, the country’s roads in major cities mainly in Harare have been turned into a jungle. Some kombi drivers at times drive on pavements, while others drive against the flow of traffic at high speed, endangering the lives of innocent shoppers. If one takes a closer look, it’s either the drivers will be evading police spikes or police officers on motorcycles will be in hot pursuit.
An inclusive approach is needed to stop this madness. Both police and kombi drivers are equally culpable of endangering the people’s lives. The spikes are now being thrown at moving vehicles to force drivers to stop, but at times with serious consequences.
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When police introduced the spikes, they were mainly targeted at the mushikashika (illegal taxis) and the concept was eventually extended to pirate taxis in the cities and towns. Sooner, police extended the concept as a way to stop even private motorists.
Instead of restoring law and order on the roads, the police were now being accused of causing lawless. This forced Government to invoke some sections of the law to restore normalcy.
Section 38 of the Criminal Law reads as follows: “Any person who — (a) throws or propels or prepares to throw or propel any missile, article or thing at any person, motor vehicle, boat, aircraft or building with the intention or realising that there is a real risk or possibility of causing damage or injury; or (b) without lawful excuse, the proof whereof lies on him or her, overturns or attempts to overturn any motor vehicle, boat or aircraft . . . shall be guilty of obstructing or endangering the free movement of persons or traffic and liable to a fine not exceeding level twelve or imprisonment for a period not exceeding ten years or both.”
How this section will be enforceable will be seen, given that in recent years police have documented cases where they have been defiant on issues like spot fines and other traffic related offences.
There are so many things that need to be considered if our cities and country’s roads are to be safe for citizens. Police have to come up with modern and sophisticated measures to control and manage traffic.
Instead of investing more in expensive cars to chase after offending motorists, it is our humble submission that more money should be spent on new information technologies software to capture all cars in a database that helps the police to account for every vehicle in the country.
If they have addresses and other details in their system linked to the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR), it will be easy for the police to deal with errant motorists. The software will detect all vehicles with offences as they pass through checkpoints like roadblocks and tollgates.
The rules governing the use of spikes should require that they be used on fixed highway roadblock to help deal with motorists who might want to take off before the police do their job like searching the vehicle.
It also appears as if the fines imposed on some of the traffic offences are too lenient. We propose, legislators come up with a dual fining system that caters for public passenger vehicles and private motorists. Driving is a matter of positive attitude each and every motorist should possess.
It is every driver’s responsibility to drive and arrive at his or her final destination without being involved in an accident. Yet the calibre of our drivers, mainly those for kombis, leaves a lot to be desired and indeed, punitive measures need to be taken if our roads are to be safe.
But the police should not resort to means that endanger the people’s lives using the unruly behaviour of the drivers as justification. We call for a thorough review of the use of spikes and the adoption of more civilised ways to curb the errant behaviour of the wayward drivers.