The Sunday Mail
In our continuing campaign to bring the spotlight on traffic policing, we this week give you responses by Police national spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba to questions emailed to her on May 26. Following the publication of the questions last week, Snr Asst Comm Charamba has been in touch with us to let us know that she had been away on business and had therefore not seen the questions we sent to her. Below she brings clarity to a number of issues.
Q: The presence and frequency of police on the road point to a rather extortionate pattern. For example, from Glen Norah to the city centre, one is bound to meet at least five road blocks, a distance of about 15 kilometres. The Police have the same presence on the national highways. Is the ratio fair? How does the police explain such a presence?
A: The ZRP has taken note of the roadblock concerns. Measures are now in place to trim these roadblocks. We appeal to the public to advise the police if they feel that a certain road or point has too many road blocks.
Be that as it may, it is unfortunate that people always associate police roadblocks with traffic issues, yet there are other issues such as the security of the country, maintenance of law and order, which are considered when roadblocks are mounted.
Recently, the ZRP busted a syndicate which had smuggled huge volumes of gold and other items into and outside the country through these check points. The media and the public should take note that there is no country in the world which does not monitor what goes on on its roads on a daily basis.
Q: What factors determine where and when police can mount a road block?
A: The ZRP has a constitutional mandate of detecting, investigating and preventing crime, preserving the internal security of Zimbabwe, protecting and securing the lives and property of the people of Zimbabwe and maintaining law and order among other obligations.
Therefore, the ZRP uses several strategies; chief among them is the mounting of police road blocks. In such cases, before police set up a road block, there are several considerations that come into effect, such as the safety of police officers and motorists, a place where drivers can safely pull off the road and stop. At times roadblocks are mounted for security reasons, crime detection, prevention and investigations.
They are also mounted at a place where the police officers can be seen clearly by the motorists, not on the curve or blind rise sites. Above all, they are mounted at anytime, including during the night.
Q: Apart from their presence, even if motorists sacrifice all the requirements, a police officer will go out of his/her way to find any offence. Some of the common complaints from motorists is the “small” spare wheel that comes with ex-Japan models, which is considered illegal. If a car manufacturer like Audi, VW or Mercedes-Benz has found it safe to include that spare wheel in their models, why do the police find it illegal? Which instrument bans the use of spare wheel?
A: The Zimbabwe Republic Police is a law enforcement agent, which enforces law that has been enacted by the legislature; in this case the Zimbabwe Republic Police will be enforcing Statutory Instrument (SI) 129/2015. Under SI, in particular Section 14 (4) reads “No person shall drive a vehicle on any road unless the vehicle is fitted with tyres and wheels designed for and capable of at least –
“(a) Carrying adequately and safely at least the maximum permissible axle mass of the vehicle; and (b) Safely attaining the maximum speed permissible in Zimbabwe in respect of such vehicle.
“Section 14(6) No person shall drive on any road a vehicle if – (a) Any tyres on any one axle of the vehicle are of a different size, type or construction; or (b) Tyres are fitted or arranged in a manner which may interfere with or likely to interfere with the driver’s control of the vehicle or cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle in whatever way or under any driving conditions.”
Hence, the spare wheel for a vehicle must be of the same size, type or construction as the wheels on that vehicle.
Q: Similarly, motorists have been fined for having the fire extinguisher in the boot of the car, and not in the passenger compartment. Given that passenger vehicles do not have an allowance for fire extinguisher in the passenger compartment, wouldn’t it be hazardous to have the extinguisher in the front? As well, which Statutory Instrument instructs that fire extinguishers should not be carried in the car’s boot?
A: Again the Zimbabwe Republic Police will be enforcing Statutory Instrument 129/2015, Section 53 (2)(b), (which says) “every fire extinguisher referred to in subsection (1)(d) shall be – secured at an easily accessible and visible position within the cab of such vehicle”. Members of the public who feel shortchanged by such legislation should approach their Members of Parliament and lobby for amendments.
Q: Other motorists complain of being fined for not displaying the fluorescent vest. Does it have to be displayed or should it be on the vehicle.
A: It is not an offence and there is no law which requires a person to display the vest. However, the vest may be useful to a motorist to be visible in case of a breakdown during the night. Also cyclists are advised and encouraged to put the vests or any other reflective material during the night for visibility purposes.
Anyone who is forced to pay a spot fine for a non-existent law should immediately lodge a complaint in writing with the nearest police station or Police General Headquarters Complaints Desk on 04-703631. All complaints reported will be investigated.
Complaints are a performance indicator and they also serve to point out areas where the organisation needs to improve. Visit our website www.zrp.gov.zw for contact details of all police stations and officers commanding provinces.
Q: The “stop” sign has been equally contentious. For how long should a motorist stop at a stop sign, so that the police officer should not stop one for not stopping at the sign?
A: The Highway Code is very clear on how a motorist should approach these “stop” signs. All licensed drivers who were tested by relevant authorities and endorsed to be competent are expected to be conversant with all traffic rules and regulations including how to approach road signs and junctions.
There is no excuse whatsoever for a driver to disregard the provision of a “stop” sign and a “give way” sign. These two signs have different meanings. Stop and make sure both sides are clear. Some motorists acquired licenses dubiously hence they are not conversant with road rules and regulations.
Q: Similarly, why should a vehicle turning right and in the middle of an intersection, be fined for proceeding against a red robot, when in fact the vehicle entered the intersection when the robot was green and was giving way?
A: There is nowhere where a robot, which is green, can suddenly turn red. If we are to go by a sequence of a robot according to the Highway Code, it is green, amber, and then red. For one to claim that the robot is turning from green to red does not hold water.
There is no excuse for one to proceed against red robots. We urge the media to educate motorists not to proceed against red robots and not to defend motorists proceeding against red robots.
However, if a motorist is convinced that he or she is not at fault he or she can opt to go to court. The motorist can also complain at the nearest police station or National Complaints Desk on 04-703631.
Q: How does the speed trap work on a highway? What rights are within a motorist to ensure that the machine being used is in working order? Should a police officer clear the machine before showing the motorist?
A: The machine works with waves reading the speed of oncoming vehicles .The motorist has every right to be shown calibration certificates and even the speed one has been accused of travelling at. Satisfy yourself with the reading before you pay a spot fine.
Q: Is it illegal for a motorist to carry people, in his private car, whose names he or she does not know?
A: It is an offence for any motorist to carry people for a reward in a private motor vehicle, which is not registered for carrying passengers. It is also in the interests of the public not to board unregistered vehicles and motorists not to carry people whom they do not know as some have lost their properties and lives through robberies.
Police, however cannot interfere with an individual’s associates who are in the car and not for commercial purposes provided the vehicle is not overloaded.
Q: Why is that police roadblocks disappear at 5pm? Should the police knock off duty, like office workers?
A: Roadblocks do not disappear but are also mounted at night. They depend on crime trends and the need to maintain law and order. They are also mounted at strategic times and points. Where members of the public feel there is need for a police roadblock at a certain point at night, they are free to contact their local police station.
Police can also conduct foot patrols and motorised patrols instead of static road blocks. In any case police take into consideration the safety of police officers and good lighting of the road block site.
Q: If police are for maintaining law and order, as they would like us to believe, why is it, for example, at the ZBC intersection in Mbare, chaos reigns there after 5pm, when the police would have knocked off, and kombi crews do as they wish? Mbare Police Station is a stone’s throw away.
A: We have taken note of the intersection and the Officer Commanding Harare Province and the Officer Commanding National Traffic are going to take action on the said spot.
We request motorists to be patient and respect each other when entering such intersections. It is sad to note that some drivers are always in a hurry. They do not consider that other motorists also have a right to use the same road and cause chaos in the CBD.
Resources permitting, police authorities would deploy police officers at all traffic light points throughout the country but that is practically impossible. Police have other competing interests for the same resources. In any case our core business is crime and members will cry foul if crime increases when police focus on traffic issues only.
Q: Has the Police force failed to deal with the kombi and mushika-shika menace?
A: During the last three months police have impounded over 500 vehicles in Harare and Bulawayo and some have been taken to Chikurubi for screening.
It is unfortunate that people complain when police raid these vehicles yet when such vehicles are impounded their owners go to courts, the vehicles are released and they find their way back into the CBD. Police will continue to take action against these errant motorists.
Police and other stakeholders are also analysing on the current legislation which fails to adequately address so many shortcomings, for example, the passengers who wait at undesignated points and promoting mushikashika are not legally accountable.
Q: Why don’t the police react quickly enough to restore law and order when traffic lights fail in the CBD or elsewhere?
A: Police have always reacted timeously on all reports of fault traffic lights in the CBD, which is why in major towns we have a Unit to monitor and assist the public when traffic lights are not operational.
However, police cannot be everywhere as cited above (not enough manpower resources). Traffic like all other sections has to function with certain levels of manpower. The ideal situation is to have robot controlled intersections repaired timeously.
Whilst it is not Police core business to deploy at robot controlled intersections, the responsible authorities should timeously repair and maintain robots. The law is very clear; police can be deployed on traffic light points and police signals override all other regulations and as such motorists should take heed.
Police are usually deployed on such points to manage congestion, ensure smooth flow of traffic and curtail road traffic accident occurrences.
Q: Any further comments?
A: The ZRP is firmly on the ground and conducts several awareness campaigns on crime and traffic through radio and the Mai Chisamba programme. The media appears not to be interested in publicizing these campaigns which are aimed at educating and conscientising the public on how to prevent crime and take safety measures to curb crime such as robbery, murder, unlawful entry and even rape.
Press statements issued to the media houses are not normally covered and campaigns receive minimal attention. It is unfortunate that Public Relations programmes conducted by the Zimbabwe Republic Police have been ignored.
The ZRP however, through Mai Chisamba and some few ZBC, Star FM, Spot FM and Zi-FM programmes, have managed to reach out to communities. In this regard, police programmes can only be effective when there is a supportive media that do not only blame but also builds the image of the Police.
Have you had an encounter with the police in which you think you were unfairly treated? Please don’t hesitate to approach your nearest police station or call the National Complaints Desk on 04-703631. Send your feedback to [email protected] or on Facebook or Twitter @gmazara