‘Traffic officers must not act like road vigilantes’

Legal experts have slammed rogue elements within the traffic police section who continue to unlawfully destroy windows and windscreens in their cat-and-mouse chases with pirate taxis and commuter omnibuses.


Experts that spoke to NewsDay this week said police and municipal officers needed to stop acting like vigilantes on the country’s roads as they have caused several injuries and deaths.

Human rights lawyer Kennedy Masiye said damaging of property belonging to anyone was unlawful and police officers were not the law but just enforcers of the law.

A police officer seen blocking a car near  Siyaso  informal market in Mbare. Police have  increased their presence on the country’s roads

“When they break windows and screens of public vehicles they are putting lives of passengers and pedestrians at risk, thereby acting irresponsibly. Citizens, especially the owners of the vehicles, can sue the police for the damage of their vehicles,” Masiye said.

“If a driver has committed an offence and flees arrest, our police force claims to be well-resourced, they should investigate and arrest the suspect. We have a computerised vehicle registration system, therefore, the police should not use barbaric methods of policing.”

He added: “Any pedestrian who has been injured as a result of the police’s negligence can sue the police for the injuries suffered.”

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it was “trite that the police in the performance of their duties must respect and protect human dignity, maintain and protect the human rights of all persons”.

The lawyers said loss of lives should point towards a revision of police procedures when they pursue traffic offenders or when setting up roadblocks and said the Commissioner-General of Police and the Home Affairs minister had a duty to investigate and sanction police officers found to be engaging in the catastrophic and reckless pursuits of commuter omnibus drivers.

“ZLHR would like to remind the drivers of public transport to adhere to the traffic laws of the country and respect the sacrosanct right to life for their passengers, other road users and innocent bystanders. The commuter omnibus operators must abide by all traffic regulations and comply with directives from the traffic police where they encounter law enforcement agents.”

Although national police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said the practice of throwing spikes was stopped a long time ago, she challenged the lawyers to also condemn errant drivers that have turned the country’s roads into lawless jungles.

“What I can only say is that those same lawyers should also speak loud about drivers who put the lives of innocent passengers at risk when they reverse at high speed in central business districts, run over innocent police officers who are simply enforcing the law and also kill innocent civilians,” Charamba said.

“Ask them to speak loud about bad driving conduct and turning the CBD into a no-go area and lawless jungle where there is survival of the fittest.”

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