The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Observing Traffic Rules Makes Our Roads Safe

editorial

Harare is a large modern capital with a vibrant city centre employing large numbers of people and hosting many more who come into town for business and shopping.

Public transport does not meet the requirements of such a city and such a city centre but, for the time being, we have to continue using what was supposed to be a temporary arrangement of minibuses, the notorious kombis.

We cannot get rid of them until we have something better and that is not going to happen in the short term.

But while we need the kombis, and while we have to use them, this does not mean we have to abdicate our management of public transport; it does not mean we cannot have better use of kombis; and it certainly does not mean that kombis can continue to flout traffic law and city council by-laws.

The police are in an almost impossible position. Almost every kombi driver, and many car drivers for that matter, break some law every time they transit the city centre.

It is not trying to catch the odd offender; it is trying to do the almost impossible.

This week's tragedy, when a four-year-old boy was run over by a kombi fleeing police would not have happened if most kombi drivers and most other road users obeyed traffic laws and stopped trying to cut corners.

The police would simply be able to cope with the odd law breaker.

Some complain that there is police corruption, that kombi drivers pay bribes and then flee police who are not on the deal.

Corruption cannot be accepted.

But we must also realise that if a driver is in the right then there is nothing to bribe about and in fact a driver in the right can easily make a formal complaint to the police should a policeman try and invent a crime.

A technology solution has been suggested.

Like so many such solutions it will require money, trained manpower and protection against vandalism. This is possible but it is not going to happen tomorrow, or even this year.

What is needed is proper management.

Harare City Council had a good plan using terminuses, holding areas and a small number of traffic managers bringing kombis into the city centre as they were needed.

What happened to it?

These plans are the only way we can get almost instant relief from the mess we are now in.

And having kombis spending time each day in terminus car parks, for the eastern routes, and a holding area outside the city centre, for western routes, will allow the police traffic branch to check parked kombis for all those things that have to be checked, at no danger or even inconvenience to commuters and the general public.

And corruption would be basically impossible in such an environment.

Big sticky labels, changed daily at first, could be used for the kombis who follow the management rules and those without could simply be banned.

This would allow police traffic officers in the city centre to then police road use, rather than safety and licensing concerns.

Kombis are frequent offenders, but they are not the only ones.

A blitz on general traffic use, once kombi access was managed and the checks were done elsewhere, would pay huge dividends and could even get us to that desirable state of affairs when just about everybody starts seeing road rules as something that makes our streets safe and traffic flow best, rather than as something to be evaded as a significant minority, including a majority of kombi drivers, seem to think.

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