Motorists in Harare must find it quite refreshing to drive around without the usual spike-throwing menace on the roads. Since early last week, the lethal steel spikes have been conspicuous by their absence on the roads.
Comment: The Standard Editor
Unconfirmed rumours said a kombi trying to avoid a spike attack had rammed into some top government or police official, sparking outrage in the corridors of power and culminating in the immediate withdrawal of the spikes.
Whatever the reason, the disappearance of hand spikes from our roads is a very welcome development for several reasons. Instead of using them for their lawful intended purpose, the police are grossly abusing the spikes. The spikes have become the police’s weapon of choice, which instead of employing them to stop runaway drivers, are now being used to attack, threaten and abuse motorists.
A clear indication that the spikes are no longer being used for the legal purpose of stopping errant drivers and criminals is the fact that every single police detail deployed on the countless roadblocks on our roads is now armed with his/her own spike.
The spikes being manufactured these days are no longer those big, wide metal immobilisers that are placed on the road to deter would-be runaway drivers. They are now designed to suit individual handling — small but deadly sharp steel weapons which police can carry around in one hand and are able to throw with ease.
It is apparent there is mass production of these crude weapons, probably at some police workshops from where thousands of them are churned out. Now, once you have this many weapons out on the streets, monitoring and ensuring they are not abused becomes difficult. This is the reason why a lot of police officers, motorists and pedestrians have been injured unnecessarily.
But the police have become so used to this dangerous weapon it appears the withdrawal of the spikes has incapacitated them. It seems the police had come to believe that their power to stop vehicles lay in the metal spikes — as if they never used to stop cars before the advent of the spike era not so long ago.
Our police must realise and accept the fact that the deployment of thousands of sharp steel weapons onto the streets is dangerous to the public in many ways. It becomes as bad and as dangerous as it is to allow people to move around with knives, spears, catapults, knobkerries or other such weapons in large numbers. There are many incidents where people have been injured, sometimes killed, because of the use of spikes, especially the easy-to-throw portable ones that the police have designed lately.
Pronouncements by the Home Affairs minister, Ignatius Chombo and his deputy Christopher Chingosho stating that spikes should be laid down on the roads — only when it is absolutely necessary — and not thrown around, are very welcome. We applaud too, what appears to be a new police move beginning last week, to withdraw the steel spike weaponry from our roads.
Zimbabwe is a modern society where law enforcement agents must employ civilised methods of dealing with errant drivers and criminals without having to throw dangerous weapons at people. That kind of policing becomes an act of violence and not law enforcement.
Using violent means of policing will nurture a culture of lawlessness in the society and, in the case of the prevailing rampant and reckless use of metal spikes, drivers are made to believe that they can be stopped only by police armed with spikes.
Citizens should be used to abiding by the laws of the country and to respect law enforcers — not to fear police because of the weapons they may carry.