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Reign in trigger happy police

EDITORIAL COMMENT

Elsewhere in this newspaper, we carry a story of a woman who was shot and nearly killed by police at a roadblock somewhere along Enterprise Road (now Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa Road) during the Christmas holidays last year.

Earlier on the same day, another three people, passengers in a commuter omnibus, had also been shot and injured under the same circumstances somewhere in Msasa. Another woman, this time a passenger in a private car travelling from Chitungwiza to Harare, was also shot in the back when police fired at the vehicle whose driver had allegedly failed to stop at a roadblock.

It appears the government of President Emmerson Mnangagwa has chosen to replace with live bullets, the infamous bribe-aiding spikes which were banished from the roads upon the arrival of the “New Dispensation”.

The spikes that were used at roadblocks during the Robert Mugabe era were a notorious bribery tool, but they did not take lives. Live bullets have apparently become ED’s weapon of choice in policing Zimbabwe although it is clear the police have not been trained to use the weapons.

Every police roadblock in the country features at least two armed police details posted a few meters away from the roadblock. They stand there brandishing their loaded weapons, fingers on the trigger, ready to open fire.

It is clear they have orders to pull the trigger and discharge live bullets because that is what they did on December 23 when they shot and injured Shupikai Kachanga (27), Dylan Chichana (24) and Violet Wairesi (32), who were passengers on a commuter omnibus in Msasa. The same day at a roadblock along Seke Road, another police officer also opened fire at another kombi, shooting Evas Mashingaidze (67) in the upper torso, missing her heart by a centimetre, according to a doctor’s report.

The logic behind government’s decision to deploy guns and live bullets at roadblocks raises a lot of questions.

Under what circumstances should deployment of armed police be warranted? Is Zimbabwe in a war situation where armed insurgents could be out and about? What threat is there on our roads to cause government to deploy arms of war daily on public roads? And, is it government policy to have police firing live bullets at commuter omnibuses or private cars carrying passengers?

It defies logic that our government could direct the police who are not snipers, to fire live bullets at vehicles carrying passengers. Whatever traffic offence the driver may have committed, it can never warrant that they be shot dead; let alone risk the lives of innocent passengers.

The government and the police should respect people’s lives and stop this criminal practice of firing live bullets into crowds in the hope of stopping runaway suspects.

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