Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
Road traffic accidents went up by over 100 000 last year, while the number of deaths increased by 75 percent despite heavy police presence on the country’s major roads, recent statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) reveal.
Government in March reduced the number of police roadblocks following complaints from motorists, the public and tourists.
In its 2017 First Quarter digest statistics, Zimstat said road traffic accidents increased nearly four times from 45 701 in 2015 to 159 490 in 2016.
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This resulted in an increase in the number of fatalities from 2 368 in 2014 to 9 301 in 2016.
A total of 44 917 people got injured during 2016, up from 12 399 in 2014.
The report further showed that between January and March this year, 319 people died in over 11 000 accidents recorded.
In April this year, a South Africa-bound Proliner bus left 21 people burnt beyond recognition after it side-swiped a haulage truck in Mvuma before catching fire.
Last month, a Lusaka-bound King Lion bus left 45 dead after it veered off the road and ploughed into a tree along the Harare-Chirundu Highway.
According to eyewitnesses, the bus had 76 passengers instead of 69 and was speeding.
Road accident investigators claim that accidents in Zimbabwe are caused by vehicle defects, speeding, animals, following too close to another vehicle, driver fatigue (inattention, misjudgement and distraction), failure to give way and turning in front of oncoming traffic.
However, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Obedingwa Mguni said police have been doing their work “but can only work to certain levels in preventing accidents”.
“Police cannot stop accidents. It is the duty of the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) to check a vehicle’s fitness and road worthiness otherwise police would have done their part,” said Deputy Minister Mguni.
Deputy Minister Mguni urged motorists and the public at large to be responsible and report any road traffic offence, particularly now that Government has reduced the number of roadblocks on the country’s roads.
“The problem that comes with reducing roadblocks is that motorists become complacent to observing traffic regulations. People must know that the police are on the roads to enforce the law,” he said.
He said reducing the number of roadblocks, therefore does not mean people should stop being responsible.
“The day we withdrew some details on the roads, there was a horrific accident on the Mutare highway and just today I saw a taxi driving in the opposite direction, which is a clear indication of reckless driving,” said Deputy Minister Mnguni.
According to the same Zimstat report, the number of road traffic crimes has also been on the increase with 445 people fined for reckless driving in 2016 up from 266 in 2013.
A total of 128 cases have already been recorded between January and March this year for reckless driving.
The number of negligent driving cases have also been increasing from 2 979 in 2013 to 6 312 in 2016.
A total of 1 733 cases of negligent driving have been recorded in the first quarter of 2017.
However, cases of other criminal activities such as robberies, armed robbery, and possession and selling of dangerous drugs have been going down.
According to the report, cases of people caught in possession of dangerous drugs have gone down from a high of 3 462 in 2013 to 236 in 2016.
Thirty-five people have so far been arrested for possessing dangerous drugs between January and March this year.
The report further showed a decline in the number of people caught supplying these dangerous drugs from 292 in 2013 down to eight in 2016 and since the beginning of the year, only two people were arrested for selling dangerous drugs.
On robberies, the report showed a decline in recorded cases from 6 925 cases in 2013 to 2 583 in 2016.
Armed robberies also declined from 554 cases in 2013 down to 214 in 2016.
“The figures given are crimes reported to the police for the periods shown. They are national total derived from reports from all stations,” reads the Zimstat report.