Police taken to High Court for demanding spot fines

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Transparency International Zimbabwe has filed a High Court application seeking an order stopping the police from demanding spot fines from motorists

The corruption watchdog also wants the High Court to declare the impounding of motor vehicles for a traffic offence without a court order and an option to pay a fine as unlawful. A chamber application filed last Friday at the Bulawayo High Court by TIZ under case number HC 2773/16, said demanding spot fines by the police violates people’s rights as enshrined in the Constitution. The Commissioner General of Police, Augustine Chihuri and the Minister of Home Affairs, Cde Ignatius Chombo were cited as the first and second respondents respectively. “The application to declare as unlawful the maladmistration of spots fines by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police under the employ of the first and second defendants is and hereby granted.

zimbabwe-traffic-police“To that end and in recognition of the rights enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No2) Act 2013, it is hereby declared that: every person has a right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate , impartial and both substantially and procedurally fair,” said TIZ in the order that is being sought. TIZ said the court should order the police to ticket Zimbabweans driving locally registered vehicles and give them time to pay a fine at a police station of their choice.

“A motorist who has allegedly committed a traffic offence should be issued with a ticket and given a reasonable time within which to pay the fine, unless the motorist elects to pay the fine on spot. “All members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police conducting road traffic duties should carry a ticket book, which is a necessary administrative tool in the execution of their duties on the road,” said TIZ. It said the practice of police officers insisting on a spot fine on the basis that they are not in possession of a ticket book must be declared an offence.

“Failure by members of the of the ZRP under the employ of first and second respondents to comply with the order must be reported to either or all parties hereto, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and or the Zimbabwe Anti­Corruption Commission,” it said. TIZ demanded that the order given by the court should be published within 21 days and Cde Chombo and Commissioner General Chihuri must pay the costs of the application. The pair has 10 days to respond to the application as stipulated by the High Court Rules. TIZ is being represented by Calderwood, Bryce Hendrie and Partners Legal Practitioners.

In February last year, High Court judge Justice Francis Bere said the collection of spot fines from motorists by the police and the impounding of their vehicles if they fail to pay up was illegal and must be stopped forthwith. Officially opening the 2015 Masvingo High Court Legal Year, Justice Bere said there was neither a legal framework nor any law which either compelled a motorist to pay a spot fine or which empowered police to impound someone’s vehicle. He said Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07), which is often cited on the matter, did not give police officers powers to force a motorist to pay a spot fine.

Justice Bere said spot fines and their retention by the police needed to be clarified as the matter has caused a lot of debate. However, the ZRP dismissed Justice Bere’s statement saying he was merely expressing his personal view. The police said the judge’s opinion was made outside court and there was nothing brought before the court regarding the matter. In a statement at the time, police spokesman Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said the judge’s statement was not binding on police operations. He said the issue of deposit fines was duly tabled before Parliament and approved by Cabinet and justified by the Minister of Home Affairs on several occasions in the August House. Chief Supt Nyathi said as an organisation they viewed the quoted comments of Justice Bere as an interference on the separation of powers.

 

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