EDITORIAL/Justice eluding us

BEGINNING this year, most traffic offences will now attract heftier fines, in line with the 2016 National Budget statement given by Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, last year.
The largest fines hikes are for offences involving motorists who overtake on solid white lines, drive without licences, operate vehicles with faulty foot brakes and proceed against red robots. Fines for these offences went up from US$20 to US$100 apiece.
Others, like encroaching white lines at traffic lights and verbally abusing road users, went up from US$10 to US$20.
In government’s wisdom, the measures are expected to stem increasing carnage on the country’s roads, caused largely by failure to observe road traffic regulations.
Chinamasa singled out drivers of commuter omnibus and mushika-shika — those pirate taxis plying city centre roads pick up and drop off passengers at undesignated points. He said these continued to risk the lives of passengers and other motorists due to negligent driving. It is very well that government is alert to the need to stem the needless toll on the country’s roads. But there is an element of deception in the motive behind the increase in traffic offence fines.
Chinamasa avers that road traffic fines are meant to be a deterrent for criminal behaviour, and we agree with him on this. But his perception that the then-prevailing scale of fines, which were reviewed in 2009 when the country ditched its own currency for a multiple currency regime, do not promote safety and discipline on the roads is totally unfounded.
The fines which prevailed until the latest increases were indeed a reflection of the country’s economic fundamentals, dominated largely by a tightening liquidity crunch. The problem with those fines was not necessarily that they were inadequate as a deterrent to traffic offences in the current economic environment, but that policing of our country’s roads no longer promotes crime prevention due to widespread corruption.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police has not denied this, and has in fact put in place measures to flush out errant officials within the force, and this is commendable. But vice has become so rampant on our roads that the effect of the current increase in fines would be to make it easier for bribe-seekers to force motorists into making illicit payments, which would be far lower than the prescribed fines.
We welcome every move to ensure that carnage on our roads is reduced or even eliminated.
This includes a change in mentality for both traffic law enforcers and motorists. Government also needs to recognise that our roads have become so bad that they now constitute the biggest threat to the safety of all road users. Dealing with the state of roads should be the first step in ensuring safety on our roads.

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