Statistics released by the police early this year show that 130 people lost their lives in 345 road traffic accidents during the festive season alone despite the increased 24-hour presence of police and Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) officials on the road.
by BLESSED MHLANGA
The statistics show a marked increase in the number of fatalities and accidents from the 2014 festive season, despite that police patrols on the roads have more than doubled, raising questions on their effectiveness.
An ongoing class action between Midlands giant bus company Tombs Motorways and little known Gokwe businesswoman Priviledge Mashawi, in which she is demanding compensation for loss due to an accident, exposed that the corrupt collusion of law enforcers and offenders could be a major cause of these accidents.
Mashawi, through her lawyer Nomore Hlabano, revealed this deep ring of corruption and collusion between Tombs, VID and police which could have ultimately resulted in the May 27 accident along the Zvishavane–Gweru highway.
The court heard that Tombs Motorways had approved a budget for its conductor, Christopher Mandla, to bribe police officers and VID officers so that they allow a defective bus to pass through the roadblocks.
The Tombs bus had no fitness certificate and was travelling on routes it was not authorised, but it still managed to go to Beitbridge from Gokwe, passing a total of 10 police roadblocks and VID inspections on its way.
A VID report on the accident also shows that Tombs Motorways had removed an electronic device called a tachography, which would have recorded the speed of the bus at the time of the accident.
“The tachography was missing at the time of the accident and the certificate of fitness was also missing,” a report from the VID reads.
On its return, the bus went past numerous roadblocks despite illegally loading luggage like television sets and beer cans in the passenger seating area, threatening the safety of passengers.
A receipt of declaration (number 1895614) prepared by the conductor of the bus — which claimed three lives — shows that Mandla paid $30 in bribes to VID inspectors so the bus would be allowed safe passage.
Harare West MP Jessie Majome blamed police officers for being the main cause of accidents, saying they are far less concerned with reducing road carnage, but more interested in collecting money.
“Their priorities are mixed. They are not there to reduce road carnage, but to collect as much money as they can from members of the public,” she said.
“They are in for revenue raising and this is actually collaborated by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa’s budget on new fines.
“They actually rub their hands in glee for motorists to break traffic laws so that they can collect fines.”
The legislator, who called the ZImbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) a primitive force, said police roadblocks were dangerous and disruptive to the public.
“Sometimes they mount roadblocks less the 7,5 metres away from a corner, which is actually in violation with the Highway Code and at times, in the middle of nowhere without any signage to show that there are police ahead,” she said.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) sang the same hymn, saying the traffic laws were too cumbersome so as to make them literally difficult to fully adhere to and allow police to collect funds albeit corruptly.
“ZLHR also notes that the somewhat cumbersome provisions relating to the carrying of spare wheels, tools and fire extinguishers, though purportedly introduced to increase traffic safety, allow for exemptions for motor vehicles bearing foreign registration number plates that are in transit or on a temporary entry permit.
If the requirements are genuinely for public safety, then it is submitted that they should be applied across the board, to all motorists,” ZLHR said in a statement.
“Most importantly, in imposing traffic fines, ZRP officers must exercise their duties in the interests of public safety and administrative justice, refraining from imposing unlawful spot fines and rejecting all forms of bribery and corruption.”