Police defy judge on spot fines

POLICE have said they will continue demanding spot fines and impounding vehicles from motorists, a day after High Court judge Justice Francis Bere described the practice as illegal.

NQOBANI NDLOVU
STAFF REPORTER

Justice Bere, officially opening the Masvingo High Court on Monday, said there was no enabling legislation allowing traffic cops to demand spot fines and impound vehicles, before saying the illegal practice should stop.

Police, however, said they only took instructions from Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, vowing to continue collecting spot fines and impounding cars unless he instructed them otherwise.

“We don’t work independently,” Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo said.

“We get instructions from the commissioner-general. We will wait for that instruction (to stop collecting spot fines and impounding vehicles).

“However, for now, the status quo stands until such a time we receive an instruction directing otherwise.”

Officially opening the High Court circuit in Masvingo, Justice Bere said spot fines were a breeding ground for corruption.

“How can we as a nation continue to condone such malpractices which create a breeding ground for corrupt tendencies?” he asked.

“We talk of determination for the need to rid this country of corruption. How can we achieve this when we allow our police officers to conduct themselves in such a corrupt manner?”

Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba could not be reached for comment while Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi yesterday morning refused to comment saying he was at the time attending a police briefing.

He, however, was not answering his mobile phone later.

While Justice Bere’s statement received widespread coverage, two judges Maphios Cheda and Lawrence Kamocha ruled in 2012 that demanding spot fines was illegal.

The judges ruled that motorists should be given adequate time to pay fines.

Traffic police officers face accusations of widespread corruption by mounting several roadblocks to demand bribes from motorists.

So endemic is corruption among traffic cops that even Chihuri last year tried to crack the whip by transferring as many as
2 000 traffic cops from urban to remote areas and vice-versa around the country.

A few years ago, a regional anti-corruption trust found that the Zimbabwean traffic cops were the most corrupt in Southern Africa.

The Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa said corruption was widespread among traffic police in Zimbabwe.

Justice Bere’s statements have been welcomed by motorists as necessary to weed out corruption.

“Let’s stand up for our rights and refuse to be unlawfully intimidated to pay spot fines,” MDC-T legislator Jessie Majome said.

“It’s up to us. No police officer can bully you into paying a spot fine or a bribe.”

MDC renewal spokesperson Jacob Mafume added: “We have maintained as Renewal that this has been highway robbery and extortion by the police.

“How can we be safe when thieves wear uniform?”

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