I HAVE never ever argued with the police before in my entire life because I respect the law enforcers and honestly believe that whatever they do they would only be following orders and trying their level best to enforce the law.
But I recently broke that honour when Rusape traffic police officers sought to ticket me over a spare wheel.
After being stopped at one of their so many roadblocks I obediently pulled over and the officer asked me for my driver’s licence, which I produced. He then asked for my car radio licence, which I again showed him. The officer asked to see my fire extinguisher, which I produced.
He then asked to see my spare wheel, which I showed him. And after glancing at it twice or thrice he said: “That’s not a spare wheel. That type of spare wheel was banned; so can I have US$10 fine because you don’t have a spare wheel.”
At that point my nerves started twitching. I asked him to explain exactly what he meant that my spare wheel was banned.
He said according to a new Statutory Instrument (SI), vehicle spare wheels should fit the same dimensions of the four wheels on my car.
The SI he was referring to is Statutory Instrument 129 0f 2015; being the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations.
For a moment I went blind with rage.
“What the hell are you talking about Officer,” I blew my top and shot back at him.
“This is an imported car and so are all the cars on our roads. We don’t manufacture a single car in this country. My car came complete with everything including this spare wheel, which you are now telling me is not a spare wheel. Where the hell do you want me to get a spare wheel that fits your description when we don’t even make the wheels for any of the cars on our roads?”
“The law says that is not a spare wheel, that’s all I can tell you. I am not the one who passed the law. And if we catch you driving your car with that kind of a spare wheel on your vehicle, we will impound the car,” the officer calmly replied.
The argument went back and forth for some time until I realised that this officer had all the time in the world, which I didn’t have so I paid the US$10 fine, got back my licence and drove off in a huff.
Returning to Harare I hunted for the SI and lo and behold, this is what section 53 (1) (a) told me regarding the issue on the spare wheel.
“No person shall drive a motor vehicle, other than a motor cycle on any road unless the vehicle is equipped with a serviceable spare wheel.”
During further discussions with friends, one of them remarked: “That law is actually ridiculous because cars that are now being manufactured don’t even have space for a spare wheel. Their tyres, called run-flat, are made in such as way that you can drive on them punctured for several kilometres to the next service station where you can sort out the tyre. So if the police sees one of these cars do they fine it when it was manufactured without provision for a spare wheel?”
According to online research portal Wikipedia: “A run-flat tyre is a pneumatic vehicle tyre designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured, and to enable the vehicle to continue to be driven at reduced speeds (under 55 mph (89 km/h)), and for limited distances (up to 10 miles (16 km), depending on the type of tyre).”
The same research portal also notes: “Contemporary vehicles may come equipped with full-size spares, limited use mini spares, or have run-flat capability.”
So here we are in Zimbabwe developing a law that drives us backwards into ancient times when vehicles started being discovered and roads were so rough that one needed more than one spare wheel to travel a 50km distance.
Returning to my issue; my questions to those who formulated the spare wheel law and those enforcing it: Why is my spare wheel and others like mine not a spare wheel? If these spare wheels (popularly known as kabiscuit) on our cars are not spare wheels, where are the millions of private cars in Zimbabwe going to get the type of spare wheel the law requires? Is this law not encouraging that we start stealing from each other, just to avoid being fined?
Where are our legislators who allow such kind of ridiculous pieces of law to sail past them? Do they even scrutinise these laws before they give a nod to them? Or is it a case of them thinking themselves as being above the law and wouldn’t care less what the law says?
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