Freeman Razemba Crime Reporter
Harare municipal police have denied reports that some of their traffic officers had been using spikes when conducting traffic enforcement while carrying out a blitz in conjunction with Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers in and around the city.
This comes after a recent outcry from the public and some transport operators, expressing concern over the use of spikes by traffic and municipal police officers which they said had been endangering the lives of passengers and other road users.
During the past few months, there have been cases this year in which the throwing of spikes by police manning roadblocks has resulted in accidents involving public vehicles attempting to evade arrest for traffic offences.
Police have however since banned the use of light and throwable hand-held tyre spikes. Some of the municipal officers in plain clothes have also been, however taking advantage of moving around with ZRP officers and using spikes.
In an interview, Harare City Council spokesperson Mr Michael Chideme said they had never promoted the use of spikes among its municipal officers when conducting their duties.
“We don’t use spikes at all and the city council does not have spikes which they use on traffic enforcement,” he said.
He urged members of the public to ensure that they ask for identification documents from anyone purporting to be a member of the city council or municipal police.
Police were recently banned from using light and throwable hand-held tyre spikes, a move welcomed by transport operators and the public, although police at static roadblocks and checkpoints will continue using heavy prepositioned strips of spikes, where necessary, to contain or control traffic.
Hand-held spikes were introduced as a far safer way of stopping errant motorists than trying to shoot the tyres with a firearm, but there have been serious accidents with deaths and injuries when these have been thrown at a vehicle, including possibly a kombi crash still being investigated that killed four people in Mutare recently.
Heavy spike strips — being difficult to carry or move and impossible to throw — are in a different class since they have to be prepositioned at a control point and are clearly marked, usually by a boom or barrier that someone has to drive through first.
Last week, Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga banned his officers from using hand-held spikes following an outcry from the public, including legislators.
Officers who carry these, let alone use them, will face criminal charges and disciplinary action.
The Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation chairman Mr Sam Nanhanga said the spikes had been endangering the lives of passengers and other road users.
“I totally agree with the banning of spikes and that the police should use other measures that do not endanger the lives of people and other road users when trying to arrest errant motorists as safety should come first before anything else. There are a lot of tactics that can be used to arrest these errant motorists, such as taking down the registration number and making a follow-up,” he said.
Mr Nanhanga said if they implement some of these safety measures, the Police Service would gain the trust and confidence of members of the public.
He said the world over, most traffic enforcements promoted the use of digitalisation when enforcing and this should be the same way that the ZRP should promote.
The development comes after police are still investigating an incident in which four people including a learner died, while eight others were injured when a Toyota Hiace commuter omnibus allegedly burst its left tyre and overturned after passing through a police checkpoint along the Vumba-Mutare Road in Mutare.