Freeman Razemba and Fidelis Munyoro
The Government has written to the police giving the force the green light to use spikes and guns to stop vehicles only in extreme cases of criminality, but ordered the implementation of an earlier instruction to reduce the number of roadblocks.
Home Affairs Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo said yesterday that he wrote to Police Commissioner-General Dr Augustine Chihuri with the instructions following complaints received by his ministry from the public.
“The ministry received several reports concerning roadblocks which are said to be very close to each other,” he said.
Dr Chombo said he told Dr Chihuri and his team to rationalise the roadblocks.
“For example, in Epworth as a district, there should be at least two roadblocks that are at distances that are reasonable,”he said.
Dr Chombo said the use of spikes came into effect after several police officers were being ran over by kombi drivers trying to evade roadblocks.
“However, what we are saying now is that these roadblocks (rationalised ones) should have spikes,” he said. “Both guns and spikes should only be used in extreme cases at these roadblocks and that is the advice given to the police by the Government.
Dr Chombo said they had noted that there were some places, especially in rural areas, where spikes were unnecessary.
“In rural areas, no one can run away from the police and it is not necessary to use spikes in such areas,” he said. “There are areas that they should be used when necessary and not everywhere.”
Dr Chombo warned motorists from driving in a way that would endanger passengers and police officers
Police chief spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said she would be able to give finer details on the issue next week.
“It is unfortunate that I cannot give you the details now,” she said.
“I need to verify first. I will give you the details on Monday next week after making inquiries.”
Over 50 percent of tourists interviewed during a recent Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency survey said they felt harassed by heavy police presence on the roads.
A survey conducted by our Harare Bureau revealed that police officers were still using spikes, especially on routes plied by commuter omnibuses.
This was despite earlier calls from some Government officials that the spikes should be used only at roadblocks as a measure to ensure motorists complied with instructions to stop.
Last month, police said throwing spikes at moving vehicles was illegal and police officers found engaging in such practices would be dealt with accordingly.
According to the police, spikes should only be placed in front of vehicles when police officers suspect that the driver might drive away.
This came after legal experts and transport operators recently described as uncivilised, the use of spikes by police to enforce compliance, saying there were other modern and effective methods of traffic control and management.
The anti-spikes war pitting motorists and the police recently spilled into the High Court, with a human rights activist seeking an order declaring the practice of deflating vehicle tyres unconstitutional.
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association director Mr Okay Machisa filed an application at the High Court challenging the constitutionality of the practice, which has the potential of damaging property, injuring or killing people.
The court challenge was filed at a time when the issue was the subject of widespread debate.
Recently, a heated debate arose in Parliament over the use of deflating devices by the police, with most legislators slamming law enforcement agents.
At some point, Home Affairs Deputy Minister Cde Obedingwa Mguni was quoted urging members of the public who witness the “dangerous practice” to take video or photographic evidence so that the officers could be punished in the courts.
He said Government was ready to take action if law enforcers executed their duties in an unruly manner.