The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Perm Sec Defends Windscreen Smashing

Secretary for Home Affairs Mr Melusi Matshiya yesterday defended the smashing of kombi windscreens for errant drivers by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, saying there was need to apply proportionate force on defiant motorists.

Mr Matshiya said there was nothing peculiar about the imposition of spot fines as Zinara and ZBC inspectors were also doing the same in their blitz to enforce payment of licences.

He said this while giving oral evidence before a Public Accounts Committee chaired by Mufakose MP Ms Paurina Gwanyanya Mpariwa (MDC-T).

Members of Parliament had raised concern why police smashed windscreens as that had the effect of endangering the lives of passengers, including babies.

"While it is not the intention of the police to smash windscreens, it is now an issue of causality. How are they smashed? Who has created that situation? I have witnessed a situation where a police officer in proper uniform stops a vehicle, the driver just flashes and he says if you remain there you are gone," said Mr Matshiya.

He said the Constitution allowed the police to use proportionate force when confronted with situations that threaten their lives.

The policy, said Mr Matshiya, was that the officer concerned would have to submit a detailed report on what prompted him to smash the windscreen.

"We have had situations where police officers have died, some hospitalised, dragged for 20 metres ... so there is need to balance. If someone creates a situation that is hazardous he cannot expect compensation from the police," he said.

He said even Zinara had to use spikes to contain errant motorists.

"We have situations where a firearm can be used to stop vehicles because we have had a situation where someone comes in at high speed, we have had to shoot the wheel. Unfortunately it is hazardous," he said.

Non-constituency MP Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) asked if there was any justification for smashing the windscreen on a kombi carrying babies and mothers.

"With your permission Hon Chair I might also need to get clarity from the Honourable Member whether kombis carrying babies are exempted from the laws of the country.

"That public transport driver is aware and obliged to take care of babies and everyone. Legally, he his obliged to take care of the passenger and he disregards that, legally he is obliged to stop, he does not stop, legally when the police officer is confronted with such a situation he is allowed to use proportional force, it's a principle which is exceptionally applied. He does not just beat where there is a mother or baby he beats the front windscreen," said Mr Matshiya.

He bemoaned the poor allocation of resources to the police service by Treasury.

Mr Matshiya said retention of some revenue streams like spot fines had helped the police in containing crime as the situation had almost gone out of hand before they were allowed to retain the fines.

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