The Road Traffic and Safety Agency has refused to meet deputy Inspector General of Police Solomon Jere who has accused the agency of making the Patriotic Front unpopular by maintaining roadblocks, for among other things stopping drunken driving.
The agency feels that they have a duty to save lives and not promote political interests at the expense of road safety.
The stand off started last week on Saturday after the agency was stopped from mounting checkpoints to monitor drunk and driving offenders.
Dr Jere, who stormed a checkpoint which was mounted on the Great East road around Lusaka’s Chainama area on Saturday night after a lady indentified as Monica called him “for help”, threatened RTSA officers of arrest and accused agency of making the ruling party unpopular.
He told the traffic officers that they did not have any power and authority to mount a checkpoint without the presence of police, adding that grabbing of car keys and impounding motor vehicles would cause problems for the police, RTSA and the government.
“Stop this mess we are having here, these officers are grabbing ma drivers licence ya bantu, they are grabbing ma keys ya bantu without any police presence; on their own they have mounted ma road blocks.”
And RTSA chief executive officer Zindaba Soko’s attempt to save her officers was met with force and resistance from Dr Jere who insisted that the agency was operating illegally by checking drunk driving drivers.
Soko wanted explained that drunk driving was a serious offence punishable according to the laws of the land but Dr Jere was in no compromising mood. He started mobilizing police officers from Chelstone and Ben Mwiinga Police Station for reinforcement while vehicle owners took advantage of the development and demanded to have their vehicles back.
He said that “Some of these people whose vehicles have been impounded are not drunk, the officers are using emotion and not reason. Mr Soko, can you clear this mess or I order police to arrest these officers,” said Dr Jere.
However, Soko insisted that no one would be arrested because his officers were just carrying out constitutional duties which were in the best interest of the nation, government and the police itself.
“Which rule are you using?” asked Dr Jere before officers from RTSA responded by saying “The road traffic Act, it says any road traffic officer in uniform employed by RTSA or any police officer can impound or arrest a vehicle which is alleged to have committed a criminal offence,” the officer read the act.
Jere told the officers that he was the first vice-chairman of the RTSA board and that there was nothing that the junior officers would tell him as armed police officers were waiting for orders.
Officers explained to Dr Jere that they were not pleased with him because he had incited drivers to rebel against the law, “when you are saying in the presence of the offenders that we don’t have powers to do that it dents the image of RTSA. I don’t want the name of the IG, I don’t want the name of the police and that of government to be brought into ridicule, at this road block what books are you using, pakucharging’a bantu aba mwatengela makey namamotoka?”
But when Dr Jere was reminded that the people who had their vehicles impounded were contributing to the increase in road traffic accidents, Dr Jere lambasted the officers for allowing RTSA officers mounting check points at night inspecting people who are drunk and driving.
And Soko attempted to explain the operation which started in January this year failed as Dr Jere kept on threatening officers with arrests saying:
“Are you doing it on your own. Which books are using to charge these people? Don’t laugh Soko, you see we have a lot of confusion on the road, you see, and by this act of an activity it is making government unpopular, it is making the law enforcers difficult to operate. We need to be organised. Number one these officers have grabbed ma keys ya bantu, these are not impoundable offences they have committed but others are impoundable offences.”
He said that there was no mess which he needed to clear, saying that he was concerned about the attitude and action of Dr Jere.
“We have a problem here, then let us come and discuss the matter at the office, lets normalise the operations-come to our office and discuss. You must be concerned because lets us apply the law effectively. Mr Soko; we formed RTSA and I was the first one to be on the board of RTSA, and I understand the law. Don’t talk-I am talking to you, I am talking to you. Do you understand the purpose of RTSA ,” Dr Jere said.
He told RTSA officers that they did not have powers to mount any road block and impound vehicles as there was no law that supported the action by RTSA.
Dr Jere then “ordered” Road Traffic and Safety Agency (RTSA) chief executive officer Zindaba Soko to stop road blocks without police officers and asked to meet him at his office yesterday but Soko did not go there.
The police have embarked on redeeming the Patriotic Front’s dwindling popularity in Lusaka by, among others, urging the RTSA to stop enforcing traffic rules at night.
Solomon Jere, has accused the Road Traffic and Safety Agency (RTSA) of making the Patriotic Front unpopular by mounting nighttime road patrols and checkpoints.