'We must tame carnage on our roads'

HARARE - With the country heading towards the festive season, it is worrying that Zimbabweans are already witnessing a spike in serious road accidents and other forms of crime such as robberies and murders.

Our reporter, Pauline Hurungudo, had an opportunity to discuss these and other issues with Zimbabwe Republic Police senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Q: We have recently witnessed a lot of serious road accidents on our major roads as well as crime in our nation. What are you currently doing to avert these challenges?

A: There is an ongoing operation where we are targeting mushika shika vehicles; the simple reason is that they don’t respect any rules or regulations.

They go through red robots, drive on pavements, they can reverse anywhere — even when they are stopped by the police, they do not oblige. They just drive anyhow in town so we are targeting them and I believe around three quarters are not registered.

So at times even if we take down the number plate to follow up, we can’t succeed because they are using fake number plates and they have become notorious for committing other crimes such as robberies.

They give people lifts and at the end of the day those people are robbed of their belongings such as cell phones, laptops and other items. So far we have impounded quite a number of those vehicles.

They are also contributing to crime and some of them are not even licensed. If you are carrying passengers you should be above 25 (years of age) and your vehicle should be registered as a public service vehicle.

Most of the drivers are young, below 25 and they have nothing to lose so they speed even if they are approached by the police.

They don’t care what is in front of them or what is at the back, they just reverse. Some even use fake number plates, so we are flushing out cars with fake number plates and we are clamping down on them through these operations.

On November 18, a driver with a fake number plate tried to run down a traffic police officer. We will also be doing general patrols throughout the country. As we go towards the festive season, our police officers will be doing general patrols to show police visibility because we have had cases of unlawful entries were criminals break into houses and they steal property, especially television sets and so on. Police officers will be deployed at several roadblocks to check on the conduct of drivers, speeding and the like.

There are clear instructions to police officers to make sure that they enforce the law for the safety of the public.

Q: We have seen a lot of crackdowns on robbers and some criminals, what are some of the successes you have recorded as the police especially during these days when crime seems to have peaked?

A: Our CID to date has managed to apprehend so many criminals and in a recent case in Bindura, a group of criminals was arrested for armed robbery even here in Harare.

There are so many cases where the CID has arrested criminals. We are already experiencing accidents before the festive season and so there is need for extra caution on the roads. On our highways, we are seeing fatalities hence we are deploying officers.

Q: What are some of the challenges being faced by police officers as they go about their duties?

A: People don’t listen and pay attention to advice given by the police. When we say don’t board mushika shika vehicle, they still do it.

We also have several police officers that have become physically challenged because of the recklessness of drivers who fail to follow instructions. Recently, a police officer was almost run over at Corner Robert Mugabe and Julius Nyerere (in Harare) by a motorist who went straight for the police officer but when we traced the number plate we realised that it was fake.

A lot of vehicles committing crime have fake number plates. When people have problems, they call the police and yet they disrespect the same officers when they are doing their duties.

Police officers are also human beings so let’s respect each other on the streets. People are quick to point fingers when accidents occur saying the police are not doing their work properly but our drivers are speeding and overtaking dangerously when their vehicles are full of people (who do nothing about it).

People don’t usually say anything until something goes wrong. In a recent accident in Manicaland, people were confirming that the driver was speeding but the question is; was he told to stop speeding or not?

The challenge is that even if you tell people not to board mushika shika vehicle, they still don’t listen. It’s only after fatalities like this happen that people temporarily get to their senses.

I have been phoned by people complaining that Toyota Wish cars are causing accidents. It’s not about the Wish but it’s about the driver and not the Toyota Wish. Imagine the driver travelling at 220km/hr and is involved in a head on accident!

We need behavioural change. Now it’s also not just mushika shika violating road rules; it’s almost everyone. You would be surprised that both men and women are recklessly driving and going through red robots. We also have issues of people not giving each other way and we have a big problem especially if another motorist is coming from side roads.

People are just not courteous to give each other way because this is causing accidents. Each motorist is claiming right of way and this is likely to cause accidents

Q: In your own opinion, how can the crime rate, road accidents and the murders be averted?

A: We are urging commuters to board proper vehicles and not mushika shika. We know that people want to get into those vehicles because they say they will get to their destination early, but at times you might even fail to get to your destination.

All motorists should know that the police are conducting an operation.

We appeal to motorists to cooperate with the police. Passengers should also avoid bringing flammable substances like gas and fuel in buses; right now we are investigating the fires that have been happening.

I think it is a wake-up call for many people not to carry flammables in buses. Also, avoid just being reckless where there are a lot of people like in Glen View 8 were people are using naked flame in busy places.

We also appeal to motorists that they cooperate and comply with the police officers on the roads and to be responsible drivers during this festive season.

People call police officers to control traffic but are not complying with the police officers. To our motorists, never leave the key on the ignition.

We also have criminals who ply shopping centres hence we are urging people to be pro-active, these are just crime tips.

Criminals patrol areas and they monitor you into the shop and they have gadgets that they use like when you close your car using a remote, they also press the remote that intercepts to stop your car from locking, then they steal from you.

People should never leave valuables in the car. It doesn’t matter if you put your laptop in the boot or under the seat, they can sniff out and steal from you. People must avoid leaving valuables in the car and if you are boarding private vehicles there are criminals who target people carrying laptops.

As police, we are doing our best to ensure that we patrol most of the areas. We are also urging people to respect the motorcade and obey instructions from the police.

We are also encouraging motorist to be mindful of the robots. A green robot means you need to go through cautiously and don’t just go through recklessly because you have right of way. You need to be cautious and follow road regulations. It’s also important for motorists to be courteous and patient by giving each other way.

In cases of robbery, we are doing our work but we are appealing to everyone as well to play their part. We have what we call neighbourhood watch committees where you can partner with the police to ensure that your area is patrolled.

You can approach the nearest police station and see the officer-in-charge and inform them that you want to be part of the neighbourhood watch committee and that way you are able to be proactive and ensure that your area is properly monitored.

It is also important for the public never to give information to strangers because the criminals also do their own surveillance. They go into neighbourhoods and they find out details about your home and at times they even come and knock and call out names.

Another thing is when, hiring maids or gardeners we have free facilities for anyone to come and have them finger-printed to check if they have a criminal record. It’s important to do a bit of background check on the person, instead of just employing someone without knowledge of where they are coming from.

We also urge parents to monitor the children and ensure that they are safe, especially as we approach holiday time. We have many cases of rape where relatives, brothers, uncles and fathers have raped their own children, so it is important to make sure that parents or guardians monitor children and the children are safe.

There is one story that is sad, where a grandmother left a one year old and a six year old alone at home and they died inside after a fire broke when the children were unattended to.

Q: There are cases were the police have been found on the wrong side as well; how can the public counter this during this festive season?

A: We are urging the public to report on police performance because in this new era all police officers are expected to serve the people according to our motto. The police will need to conduct themselves in accordance with our core values.

They need to be courteous and have integrity. Members of the public will be encouraged to report errant police officers who misbehave at roadblocks.

Q: What should the public do if they are faced with drivers of public service vehicles who do not follow the law?

A: We are going to be giving provincial numbers to the public so that if you are not happy you simply report so it’s not a one-sided thing.

People should also phone the police if drivers in public service vehicles misbehave. The public can simply call 748836/703631, these numbers are always active.

The first one is for Harare operations and the other one is for national complaints desk. If there is anyone who is driving improperly, anyone can phone those numbers and the nearest police station will deploy police officers to stop that bus or vehicle.

People should call those numbers and we also have a national WhatsApp number 0712800197 so that people can just give messages or even phone.


Comments (2)

Very good, why can we not have a name them and shame them space in all national newspapers, whereby perpetrators of running red lights, not giving way to on coming traffic, and many other bad driving examples, get the RTSO to give out free copies of the Highway code to all drivers, please restore sanity to our roads,

Richard Eatwell - 25 November 2018

It is futile to expect the Police alone to tame carnage on our roads. All major highways have exceeded their life-span by decades, remember these roads were built by Smith's regime meant only for a few hundreds vehicles. There is also a marked increase of heavy duty traffic that coupled with the narrowness and pot-holed roads is also a major contributor to the deaths on the highways. In urban areas the demise of public transport - Zupco has ushered in loads of pirate taxis rescucitation of an efficient public transportation system is urgently over due. The Police also need to rebrand their relationship with citizens which has been hostile because of the Police's partisan (biased towards the ruling party) interaction with the public. A lot of motorists have not yet forgiven ZRP traffic for its blatant fleecing of money from the travelling public disguised as road blocks for so many years during the previous regime. Persuasive and sustained tactics are now required to achieve the above - current crop of commanders in the ZRP are seriously challenged in that regard.

Sinyo - 26 November 2018

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