Traffic police spell out their role
I AM the head of the Traffic Branch of Police; deputised by three assistant commissioners who are responsible for operations, crime and administration.
Our mandate is to protect life and property through the enforcement of the Road Traffic Act and related legislation.
We derive this from Section 219 of our Constitution.
As a branch, we have come up with an 11-point commitment plan which is aimed at improving our relations with the public as follows:
i. We will not abuse our authority by engaging in corruption;
ii. We shall exhibit appropriate police customer care practices;
iii. We shall not withhold motorists’ driving licences without the written consent of the owner;
iv. We shall use discretion judiciously and be sensitive to motorists’ genuine plights;
v. We shall collect no more or less than what is provided in the national deposit fines schedule;
vi. We shall not detain motorists at roadblock sites unnecessarily;
vii. We shall not inconvenience law-abiding motorists;
viii. We shall not cause congestion or accidents ourselves during traffic enforcements, but facilitate smooth flow of traffic and pedestrians;
ix. We shall all work towards building trust between the police and the general public;
x. We shall always display our name tags so that the public know who they are dealing with; and
xi. We shall be transparent, accountable and respectful in all our dealings with our collective audience.
Let me take this opportunity to express our gratitude for the feedback we receive from the public as they help us to make corrections and improve our service delivery.
Harassment of motorists
Indeed, we have been receiving these complaints, and there are a number of measures we are undertaking.
We are continually training our officers in traffic legislation and customer care so that they can interpret the law well and exercise appropriate customer care practices.
We also conduct lectures and meetings to communicate the expectations of the ZRP inasfar as traffic enforcement and interaction with the public are concerned.
Specifically on customer care, the Public Relations Department also chips in and conducts customer care workshops for our members in all provinces.
Furthermore, complaints against police are thoroughly and professionally investigated as we value feedback.
The level of indiscipline on the roads by some motorists, especially commuter omnibus drivers is quite disturbing.
We have also seen a percentage of other private motorists during peak hours also driving dangerously and recklessly. They drive against one way streets, go through red traffic lights, avoid intersections and overtake dangerously, causing serious and fatal accidents in the process.
We do traffic enforcements, but the major challenge we face is that when you enforce during peak hours, you cause congestion. We are, therefore, resorting to recording the traffic infringement and recording the registration number plates of the offending vehicles and tracing the owners through Central Vehicle Registry.
Other drivers drive vehicles without number plates.
However, we started an operation on October 1 to weed out all vehicles without number plates. We want to urge motorists to have vehicles registered in the current owners’ names to avoid being arrested. Plateless vehicles should not be on the roads; we are impounding them. Motorists should also be warned that we are recording all the offences they are committing and the long arm of the law will catch up with them.
That incident (where a Harare man was killed by touts at a rank) was quite disturbing and really touching. I attended the scene and saw the sobbing wife of the victim, Methias Gore (64) of Glen Norah, Harare.
I remember Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, our spokesperson, sobbed as well.
We immediately banned the ranking of buses and touting at the point.
That was followed by “Operation Against Touts” where a number of touts were arrested and taken to court.
So far, we have arrested more than 600 touts, and some have been jailed for three months.
We want to thank the Judiciary for such deterrent sentences.
We are collaborating with other stakeholders such as City of Harare, the Vehicle Inspection Department, Central Vehicle Registry, Road Motor Transport in the operation “Sunshine City” which is also targeting touts, Mishika-shika and general lawlessness on our roads.
We are also engaging public transport associations not to employ touts and avoid picking and dropping passengers at undesignated points.
Commuting peace-loving Zimbabweans are also urged to go to designated points to board transport. It is an offence for one to interfere with the free movement of people and vehicles on the pavement and on the road.
We also note with concern an increase in the number of accidents involving pedestrians.
We urge motorists to respect pedestrian crossings. Pedestrians should be very observant and conscious and ensure the road is clear and safe before crossing. Last week alone, 15 pedestrians were killed on our roads.
We did not ban the use of spikes and let me explain.
The increased use of spikes was in a bid to contain unruly behaviour by a certain section of motorists. They were rampantly disobeying police instructions to stop. Disturbingly, some motorists were deliberately running over police officers. We lost a number of police officers due to this wayward and cruel behaviour whilst others were injured.
However, we are a people’s police service. We listen to the concerns raised by people over the manner in which the spikes were being used.
We decided that spikes be used sparingly where necessary. Here, the spikes are set to restrict motorists from wayward behaviour or evading police check-points.
We, therefore, appeal to motorists to obey police instructions for the sake of orderliness on the roads. We need to work together for the safety and security of all road-users.
Mushika-shika Operation “Sunshine City” has seen over 400 “mushika-shika” vehicles impounded. Some are at Harare Central Stores and others at the Vehicle Inspection Department.
We are working with other stakeholders to bring sanity to Harare. The operation to stop mishika-shika is also being done in other cities, and vehicles are being impounded.
We were given additional personnel and are deploying at busy intersections to ensure free flow of traffic. However, motorists need to be patient and give each other way like they do in other countries. It is also the responsibility of local authorities to ensure that all traffic lights are working at all times. Police cannot cover all the intersections.
We also urge motorists not to enter intersections when the exit is not clear and to exercise patience. They should also obey police instructions to avoid congestion at intersections.
Electronic Traffic Management System
Indeed, we have already embraced the Electronic Traffic Management System to improve road safety enforcements and speedily process tickets and prosecution of offenders.
The system is being introduced in phases and started with the use of ticketing devices in Harare. Instead of issuing handwritten tickets, we are using the electronic ticketing system, which has cash and “swipe” payment platforms.
A mobile money platform will soon be included.
There are advantages associated with the electronic management system; some include: ◆ Minimising discretion which provides opportunities for corruption; Enhances supervision as the supervisor can monitor the activities of deployed personnel from his office; Electronic ticketing devices can produce tickets quicker than doing it manually; ◆ A speed camera has multiple functions such as speed, red lights, stop lines and barrier line infringements detection. It can do enforcement on its own and capture video images of offending vehicles; and · In countries where the system has been introduced, road traffic accidents and fatalities have declined drastically. Senior Assistant Commissioner Isaac Tayengwa is the Officer Commanding National Traffic. He wrote this article for The Sunday Mail