Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » When Will This Madness Stop?

The child who was knocked down by a commuter omnibus driver allegedly fleeing the police earlier this week is no more (May his soul rest in peace). For those of us who saw pictures of the little boy as he was being lifted into an ambulance in the newspapers and on the Internet, this did not come as a surprise.

The pictures showed that the boy was badly hurt. Out of respect for his family, I do not want to dwell much on this incident because the boy’s family is still in mourning.

As a parent myself, I know how terrible it is to see your child in pain. In fact, every parent would want to spare their child any type of pain. What more to see the child in pain and then to lose them? We can only imagine their pain and heartbreak. We send our condolences to the boy’s family. This was all so unnecessary, was it not? But wait a minute!

This is not the first time an innocent person has lost their life after being caught in the crossfire of these cat and mouse games between members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police and commuter omnibus crews.

The boy, bless his soul, is the latest victim of the confrontation between traffic police and kombi crews. Worse still, he may not be the last.

Last year, a woman died after she was hit by a commuter omnibus that was fleeing traffic officers. The woman died while she was disembarking a kombi that had just parked at “Copacabana” bus terminus. In another case, one person was killed and six others were injured when they were run over by another commuter omnibus that was again, fleeing traffic cops. In 2013 again, a kombi full of passengers was reversing at high speed as police charged to smash its windscreen and the omnibus hit a war veteran, killing him instantly.

While police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba has been quoted saying police officers are not allowed to smash windscreens, worryingly the smashing continues.

There is instant panic and terror that seems to grip these kombi drivers once they see police roadblocks or police details ahead of them, that is palpable.

I have witnessed this myself while driving from work to my home or vice versa.

Half the time I have to change lanes fast trying to avoid being in the path of kombis once they see police officers ahead, for they can do the unthinkable. Your car or your life to these fleeing drivers is nothing as long as they avoid a smashed windscreen or being ‘asked to pay a bribe’.

Let it be very clear that I do not condone the behaviour of these kombi drivers.

But let me also say at this point, I do not condone the behaviour of some of these overzealous police details.

We see them. Some wield those baton sticks they use to smash windscreens with, threateningly and they stop kombis right in the middle of traffic, often where it is not safe to do so.

They can even surround a kombi whose driver is showing signs of resistance, which has led to some drivers jumping out of their cars and running away, leaving passengers stranded. I have often seen police details run off once this happens. The same apparently happens when a life is lost as has recently happened.

Both the police and the kombi crews run away. Today, I write to ask a pertinent question: “How long shall we continue to watch innocent lives being lost?”

This is a direct appeal to Commissioner-General of Police Augustine Chihuri, and Government through the Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi: how long shall you let this go on?

True, these kombi crews are a menace. Some of them drive without licences. Some of them do not even know the speed limits. Some of them are driving unroadworthy vehicles. Some are drunk.

We fear them because they have made certain parts of the city unapproachable whether you are driving or walking.

But when they have passengers on board and we chase them, what are we doing? Are we even thinking of the passengers on board and those walking nearby? Who are we thinking of here? Is this the best way to bring compliance?

Have all the minds in our police force failed to bring to book errant kombi drivers and operators to the extent that we will allow our streets to become blood baths? Can we not have a system where the police take number plates of errant kombis down and follow it up from there? A family has lost their child, whose responsibility shall it be? How many more should die?

Does it have to be a big someone who gets hit for us to act? Why do the police treat every kombi as if it is committing a crime by just being on the road? Are these not the reasons why the drivers behave in a certain way because they are always found wanting no matter how many papers they hold?

I spoke to some kombi and taxi operators and they said no matter how compliant they are, the operating environment is always hostile for the police will always find something to fine or penalise one for.

Might this not be the reason behind the panic?

I also call upon those who operate commuter omnibuses and taxis to employ mature and licensed drivers and to service their vehicles and making sure they have all the necessary papers all the time. Some of these young boys driving people around have no business driving public passenger vehicles.

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development Obert Mpofu, was right when he said there may be need to have only mature people driving these vehicles.

He said even 25-year-olds are too young — and I tend to agree. Some of the boys driving kombis are too young and clearly taking alcohol and drugs while they are behind the wheel.

When you do not have the necessary papers as operators and give your drivers unrealistic targets, the results are dire. We are not prepared to sit and watch while people die.

Enough is enough.

Those who want to play cat and mouse games need to go into the bush. In urban streets, we need some order.

With order, we will see a difference.

btonhodzayi@gmail.com

Source : The Herald

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