…as killer driver gets freed for a fine in Zaka
With road carnage continuing to rock the roads, many people are becoming increasingly unconvinced that the courts of law have what it takes to fight the problem especially with regards to the punishment of unlicenced drivers.
Unlicensed drivers continue to wreak havoc on the country’s dilapidated road network with little worry of what the law could do to them.
Although a lost life cannot be recovered, families of victims of fatal road accidents always hope for justice to be carried out especially in case where the accident involves an unlicenced driver but if truth is to be told, the courts are no longer reliable dispensers of justice in that regard.
On September 19, 2018, tragedy struck along Roy-Chiredzi highway near Mashingaidze Primary School when a Toyota Ractis side-swiped a Mazda Titan causing the untimely death of Tinovonga Gwitima who died upon admission at Masvingo Provincial Hospital. The accident also claimed the life of Agricultural Extension Officer Abigail Mhumi who succumbed in Harare four days after the fateful day.
According to a detailed evaluation and observation done by Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) Sergeant (Sgt) Erinos Kuzipa which is in possession of TellZim News, Maxwell Magazine (28) who was driving the Toyota Ractis was speeding and encroached into the lane of Lardslous Madzvamuse who was driving the Mazda Titan lorry.
After a thorough investigation, it was discovered that the complainant Madzvamuse was a holder of a clean class four driver's license but it was unearthed that Magazine did not have any driver’s licence.
Considering that the law did not allow Magazine to drive in the first place, and that he was the one who failed to drive properly, he faced charges of negligent driving and culpable homicide.
The case was presided over by Zaka magistrate Florence Nago whom the community had logically expected to hand down a stiff sentence against the offender. On February 19, 2019, Nago, as expected, convicted Magazine on charges of driving without a licence and culpable homicide but went on to pass a judgement that everybody would be forgiven for questioning.
Nago fined Magazine $100 for driving without a license and a $400 fine for culpable homicide. She also handed down two months and eight months jail sentences but conditionally suspended them. She also prohibited Magazine from driving a motor vehicle for one year and ordered him to not commit any offence involving negligence driving in the next five years.
In 2011 and 2012, Gutu resident magistrate sentenced more than four unlicensed drivers to a minimum jail sentence of four years each. In all these cases at least one passenger succumbed to injuries sustained in these accidents.
In December 2018, a 33-year-old Harare tout, Chrispen Magaya appeared before a Harare Magistrate facing charges of culpable homicide and driving without a license after knocking down Joseph Munyame who was trying to cross Lomagundi road in the capital.
Magaya was given an effective five year jail term and was banned from driving public transport.
Masvingo provincial magistrate, Langton Ndokera was not available to give a comment on the Zaka case by the time of writing but an official at the magistrate’s court who spoke on condition of anonymity said cases of that nature tended to vary depending on their gravity and the level of recklessness of the driver.
"Each case depends on its own facts. In every case, we should consider the degree of negligence before passing a judgment," said the official.
Road safety gospel crusaders Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) spokesperson, Tatenda Chinoda shared his sentiments on the issue of justice delivery concerning road carnage saying people should engage the legislature in their quest for justice over road carnage.
"There is nothing wrong if the judiciary is implementing the laws of the State. What could be wrong is the level of fines which are gazetted against serious road traffic offenses. In this new dispensation why can't we lobby our parliament to do an upward review of all traffic offenses and their penalties so that we have very punitive measures against offending road users?" said Chinoda.
He also urged people to rise up and speak with one voice so that there is an upward review of the legal framework concerning issues to do with traffic offenses and penalties so that they become stiffer and punitive for any perpetrator.
"As a nation people must speak on the need to review road traffic offenses and penalties to make sure that they are punitive. This would also make sure that such serious offenses like driving without a license should attract a custodial sentence. The judiciary simply speaks to the legal framework because we have the rule of law," said Chinoda.