Daniel Nemukuyu-Investigations Editor
RECKLESS and negligent driving is now rampant around Harare, piling pressure on police as impatient motorists drive against traffic, ramming into oncoming vehicles, but police are fighting back.
The rules of the road compel motorists to drive on the left, but kombi and pirate taxi drivers during peak hour are moving on the opposing traffic lane to overtake just about everyone.
The recklessness in breaking rules of the road with impunity has caused a number of head-on accidents that have claimed lives in some instances.
While the increase in the number of vehicles on the road and roadworks currently underway may be contributing to traffic congestion, drivers are obliged to be patient and follow the rules of the road.
Statistics obtained from the courts show that at least 120 drivers appeared at Mbare and Harare Magistrates’ Courts in the past two months charged with reckless driving, negligent driving as well as culpable homicide.
At least 20 of them were charged with reckless driving after being caught driving against flow of traffic, and in some cases, driving through red traffic lights.
The Harare courts in September only, fired warning shots, sending at least seven to jail, imposing life driving bans on some while others had their licences endorsed.
However, a number of reckless motorists getting off the hook as police have limited manpower and resources to apprehend all offenders.
National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said reckless driving was now rampant on most roads in the capital.
Asst Comm Nyathi said there is an ongoing operation by the police to arrest all such offenders.
“There is an ongoing operation which has nabbed a number of motorists. They are being sent to court without an option of paying admission of guilt fines at police stations. Motorists are openly driving against flow of traffic in most roads in and around Harare, posing a danger to themselves and others.
“We are disturbed by that behaviour and it’s now common in the Southerton area, Chiremba Road, Samora Machel Avenue, Arcturus Road and Seke Road in Harare.
“We are serious about the operation and all the culprits will be brought to book and sent to court. No one will be spared and we remind drivers that they are trained to safe life,” said Asst Comm Nyathi. Not all the criminals are private motorists. Some are in parastatal and Government vehicles.
“We have arrested a number of motorists who drive against traffic in Government vehicles. Some will be driving vehicles belonging to parastatals and we have since called some parastatals imploring them to reign in on their drivers. That sets a bad example and we cannot have a Government vehicle being used to break the law,” he said.
According to the statistics from the courts, police sent 20 cases of driving against the flow of traffic and four suspects have since been convicted and sentenced since the operation started.
In one of the cases, Liberty Jairosi (27), who was illegally pirating with a Toyoya Hiace along Lyton Road, was waved to stop by the police, but he sped off, against the flow of traffic.
While in the wrong lane, he hit a Mercedes Benz vehicle. Harare magistrate Mr Nyasha Vitorini, sentenced him to 30 months in jail before cancelling his driving licence.
Jairosi got a life ban on driving commuter omnibuses or any other passenger vehicles.
In another case, Harare magistrate Mr Shane Kubonera jailed Nyasha Kurwa (23), a kombi driver for four years and cancelled his licence for driving against traffic and going through a red traffic light along Chiremba road.
He was jailed two years for each count, but the sentences will run concurrently, leaving him to serve an effective two-year jail term.
Terrence Chigwa was fined $50 000 (or eight months) and was suspended from driving light vehicles for six months after being convicted of reckless driving.
Harahwa Shungu was fined $15 000 fine for reckless driving and had his licence endorsed.
Sunganayi Simango was sentenced to community service and had his licence cancelled for reckless driving in Harare.
Of the cases that appeared in court in the past two months, 12 drivers had their licences endorsed, 17 paid fines, eight were ordered to perform community service while seven were jailed.
Zimbabwe Traffic Safety Council spokesperson Mr Ernest Muchena said his office was working with the police to curb recklessness on the roads.
“We are deeply concerned about the conduct of some of our drivers on Zimbabwe’s roads. We have noticed that in big cities like Harare and Bulawayo, they are driving recklessly. There are some people who drive against the flow of traffic during peak hours. This is so rampant along Bulawayo road between Kuwadzana and Harare’s central business district.
“It is also prevalent along Solomon Mujuru (Kirkman) Road, and also along Mutare Road (between Ruwa and Harare) as well as along Chiremba Road.
“Such behaviour is a threat to road safety. We urge motorists to follow the rules of the road.
“We are working with the police to ensure the culprits are brought to book and taken to court. We have had meetings with the courts and we have agreed that such reckless drivers should be sent to court,” said Mr Muchena.