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Dear honorable Minister the past week I have been in deep thought about the conduct of our Zimbabwe Republic Police Traffic police (Zimbabwe Police Service in the new constitution ) who seem to be turning a blind eye to daily overloading of commuter omnibuses. This makes one suspects there is something that we do not know that is happening between the drivers and traffic cops manning the road blocks, because if they cannot curtail over loading then what is the purpose of the having these roadblocks. I am very aware that recently the national police spokeswoman said that roadblocks on roads that lead to the city centre will continue after some people had complained that they delay commuters and motorists when rushing to work, but to me over loading is also a crime that should be dealt with like others.
Minister, what boggles my mind is that why commuter omnibus operators are allowed to pass road blocks over loaded. The law I have read says that commuter omnibuses must carry fifteen passengers at any given time and it is also written on dashboard, but commuters are made to sit in fours per row, my simple mathematics shows that the number swells to 16, then three or two passengers in front it then translates to 18 passengers plus the ‘windi and driver ‘ it adds up to 20 people in the commuter. Do we think that the persons who said that commuters must carry 15 people are crazy, they do not know the vehicle mass, tear and wear, safety of the people when they are squashed in the commuter.
I wonder how will this country weed out corruption if daily the law enforcers condone this illegal behavior. Someone must help me to understand why traffic police allow this commuter omnibuses to pass. I am convinced something very rotten takes place at these roadblocks unless I am given a very good explanation, otherwise this country is now lawless. Surely this beloved deserves an explanation from you if you are serious about our rights, safety and welfare.
Minister, I have been observing every year the National Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe especially during the festive season and running sustained campaigns and blitz in the media about the safety of commuters and other motorists but nothing has been done to deal with over loading of commuter omnibuses. They are very active in giving death toll statistics and alert text messages but I have not heard them raising alarm on over loading especially by commuter omnibus operators which also happens under their nose.
I wonder where are other lobby groups like civil society organizations to launch massive campaigns on the safety and welfare of the citizens especially on the issue of over loading. Citizens must demand their rights to be protected and law enforcement agents must also play their key part and deal with this conduct. This behavior is an infringement of the rights of people under Chapter 4: 51, that read People must treated with dignity they deserve not to be squashed like bags when they pay to get the service.
I challenge your ministry to come up with mechanisms that will promote the safety and welfare of commuters, who are abused daily in the eyes of the traffic police service who man the roads. My conclusion is that in this country we have normalized the abnormal. How will the country deal with other crimes if the police turn a blind eye to this behavior.
By Michael Mdladla Ndiweni, is a development practitioner and human rights defender