Zimbabwe: no breathalysers, no DUI arrest in over a year

Zimbabwe traffic police/TOZVIREVA

Zimbabwean police did not arrest anyone for drunk driving for more than a year, as road accidents went up by about 25% over the period, official statistics show.

The failure to make any arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol is unlikely due to a radical change in driver behaviour — nearly 3,000 were arrested for the offence in 2010. On average, about 700 people were hooked for DUI per year between 2010 and 2017.

The glaring lack of DUI arrests is most likely due to the shortage of breathalysers, although the force announced it had found a supplier for the equipment last October.

Crime statistics in the latest Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) quarterly report up to November 2018 show that arrests for drunk driving and breathalyser offences were last recorded in October 2017.

Last October, then police spokesperson Charity Charamba announced that Univern, a major traffic solutions supplier to government, had purchased equipment to help traffic police deal with road offences. That supply agreement, which reportedly ran into trouble amid some resistance from within government, does not appear to have been consummated.

“They (Univern) have already procured electronic ticketing devices which we will be deploying very soon as a way of improving our service at roadblocks and wherever we issue tickets. That will also reduce cases of corruption,” Charamba told the press.

“They have also purchased breathalysers and speed traps; these will enhance the way we do our work. Our officers have already undergone training and the gadgets are already there.

Although road accidents have risen markedly, deaths remain off the 2015 peak, when 2,368 people died on the roads. Injuries, which have started to trend upwards, are still below the 2014 peak of nearly 15,000.

The ZRP’s operations are largely underfunded by Treasury. The bulk of the force’s budgetary allocation goes to salaries.

Until November 2017, the ZRP used its traffic department to raise and keep revenue, under a special arrangement with Treasury. The ZRP used to net as much as US$60 million per year from traffic fines, but the police drew criticism for its aggressive methods and corruption.