THE Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have expressed concern over the rise in road accidents caused by police chasing commuter omnibuses in the country’s city centres.
In a statement, ZLHR indicated that they had noted with great concern the increasing number of accidents in which cops would have been the catalysts.
The accidents occur when police attempt to arrest kombi drivers or pursue those that try to escape.
The concerns come in the wake of an accident which claimed the life of Neil Tanatswa Mutyora (3) on April 22 who sustained head injuries after being knocked down by a commuter omnibus fleeing cops.
In Bulawayo, 16 commuters’ lives were put in danger in February when cops threw spikes in front of a moving kombi along Khami Road leaving four passengers seriously injured and hospitalised. The four are still admitted at Mpilo Central Hospital.
“ZLHR joins the Mutyora family in mourning the loss of a young life that had a bright future and extends its deepest condolences.
“May his dear soul rest in eternal peace. ZLHR condemns any form of reckless driving and any breach of traffic laws by public transporters being witnessed on the roads of Zimbabwe. There is a positive duty on the drivers of commuter omnibuses to respect the laws of the land and respect lives of other road users,” the ZLHR statement reads.
ZLHR indicated that where such duty is not upheld, it was the constitutional mandate of the police to intervene and protect other road users and innocent bystanders.
“However, the police are equally obliged by law to intervene in such circumstances in a reasonable manner that does not lead to harmful effects extending to innocent bystanders. It is trite that the police in the performance of their duties must respect and protect human dignity, maintain and protect the human rights of all persons.”
ZLHR reminded the police that as public officers and in pursuance of law and order, they had a duty to uphold the Constitution which in Section 48 guarantees the right to life.
“Section 51 of the Constitution also guarantees the right to human dignity and provides that every person has inherent dignity in their private and public life, and the right to have that dignity respected and protected.
“ZLHR also calls upon the ZRP to behave in a responsible manner and conduct that doesn’t undermine the public confidence in the police service.”
ZLHR joined the calls for the police officers directly or indirectly responsible for the death of Tanatswa to be held to account for their actions both in their official and personal capacities.
“The commuter operators must abide by all traffic regulations and comply with directives from the traffic police where they encounter law enforcement agents,” the lawyers said.
“The loss of the promising and precious life of Tanatswa should point towards a revision of police procedures when they pursue traffic offenders or when setting up roadblocks.”
ZLHR called on the Commissioner-General of Police Augustine Chihuri and Home Affairs minister Kembo Mohadi to investigate and sanction police officers found engaging in the catastrophic and reckless pursuits of commuter omnibus drivers.