TRANSPORT and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu yesterday fired warning shots to errant commuter omnibus operators and their crews, saying sterner measures will be employed on them if they continue to disregard road regulations and become conduits for road carnage.
In a speech read on his behalf by his deputy, Petronella Kagonye, at a road safety awareness campaign organised by the Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council (ZTSC), Mpofu said both the kombi operators and their “unsuitable” drivers would face the full wrath of the law.
“I want to sound a strong warning that these errant kombi owners have their days numbered,” Mpofu said.
“The law shall never hesitate to take its course. Both the driver and the kombi operators found on the wrong side of the law shall be prosecuted accordingly. I want to urge our courts to complement our efforts by imposing deterrent sentences against transgressors in order to remind them of the sanctity nature of life.”
The awareness march was to express solidarity with the 10 bereaved families and injured victims of a horror crash that occurred near Chinhamo Service Station along the Harare-Chitungwiza Highway on May 19.
Mpofu said the accident was caused by negligence and was “100%” avoidable. Investigations have revealed that the kombi was not roadworthy, the driver inexperienced and without a defensive driving licence as stipulated in Statutory Instrument 168 of 1986.
Mpofu also urged the commuting public to report to the police any illegal behaviour by kombi crews, saying silence could be a “loud silent killer”.
Globally, road deaths and injuries have become a major public health problem with a broad range of social and economic consequences. Figures availed by the ZTSC yesterday showed that 546 had died in Zimbabwe alone and 4 733 injured in 1 2954 accidents nationwide in the first quarter of the 2014.
About 2 094 were killed in 2012 while 1 787 died in 2013.
The police and kombi crews have been engaged in cat-and-mouse games, with the commuting public blaming corruption within the police force as the major contributing factor to road carnage.
Speaking on the sidelines of the awareness campaign, Kagonye said the country’s accident rate would be drastically reduced after the full implementation of the National Transport Policy that the ministry was concluding, which among other things, would also see the decongestion of Harare.
She said kombis would be phased out gradually while the ministry would also embark on a nationwide rehabilitation of roads within the next two years, in order to eliminate the causes of carnage.
Urban Commuter Operators of Zimbabwe president Simbarashe Ngarande said the organisation was working towards formalisation of the public transportation industry, create a database and train kombi crews public relations and good road behaviour.