VISIBLE policing on Bulawayo’s roads was very low yesterday following a near-fatal accident allegedly caused by police at a roadblock which left 16 passengers nursing serious injuries.
SENIOR COURT REPORTER
The city centre-bound kombi overturned when cops manning a roadblock at the Khami Bridge flyover threw spikes in front of the moving vehicle on Wednesday.
Police were conspicuous by their absence on the city’s main roads following the accident that elicited widespread condemnation.
However, Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo attributed the scaling down of roadblocks to the end of an operation “targeting errant motorists”.
“Who told you that we have abandoned roadblocks?” asked Moyo.
“Do you think we can abandon roadblocks because of that minor accident? The roadblocks are few because of the end of an operation which was targeting errant drivers.
“Have you been to Tshabalala? Didn’t you see a roadblock there?”
The accident, which Moyo referred to as minor, left four of the 16 passengers hospitalised when a cop sprang into action and threw a spike in front of a speeding kombi, resulting in it overturning three times before stopping on the edge of the flyover.
Even Bulawayo’s top cop Senior Assistant Commissioner Steven Mutamba condemned his officers’ conduct. But Moyo said police would continue to use spikes to rein in errant kombi drivers.
“These spikes were used since time immemorial, before you were born yourself or studied your journalism; even myself when I joined the police force, I found them there,” he said.
“Using spikes is international standard. The problem is with the driver who was driving while underage and running away from police officers,” he said.
“If he saw that a spike was being thrown at him why did he not stop? In any way our police officers did not throw any spikes at the vehicle. We will not stop using them on errant commuter omnibuses.
“We are also going to charge the driver for reckless driving and also the owner of the vehicle for giving the vehicle to an underage driver.
“The legal age of driving a public vehicle is 25 and the driver was 23,” Moyo said.
However, Mutamba said he did not condone the reckless throwing of spikes in front of vehicles by his officers as that risked the lives of the public.
Mutamba told Southern Eye yesterday that although spikes were part of a roadblock, throwing them at vehicles, especially commuter omnibuses carrying passengers, was unlawful.
“My brother spikes are part of a roadblock. Our officers did not throw the spikes at the vehicle as alleged,” said Mutamba.
When informed that eyewitnesses, including the injured passengers, insisted that his cops threw the spikes in front of the kombi leading to the accident, Mutamba said he did not condone such conduct.
“We don’t condone such conduct. Do you think we are happy that people were injured?
“The matter is still under investigation (and) we will establish the truth. We will never condone any conduct that puts the lives of the public at risk,” Mutamba said.
Former deputy mayor Alderman Amen Mpofu added his voice of condemnation on the police actions.
“What happened yesterday (Wednesday) must be condemned. It is the most unfortunate thing.
“What is surprising was the police spokesperson’s comment which was not balanced,” said Mpofu. “Yes, the driver of the kombi was the culprit in the matter, but the actions of the police officer who threw spikes in front of the kombi should also be condemned.
“It is the duty of the police to protect people and not endanger their lives.”