Cops can’t force motorists to pay spot fine: ZLHR

MUTARE– Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have castigated the continued practice of some police details forcing motorists to pay fines on the spot, saying such a move is illegal.

Peggy Tavagadza of ZLRH said police can only charge a maximum of $20 fine on the roadblock paid on spot only as an initiative of accused persons upon admission of guilt instead of appearing in court.

She said members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police are only enforcers of the law within discretion of circumstances but this does not give them power to force people to pay spot fines.

Tavagadza made these remarks while she was addressing delegates at public consultation meeting organised by ASAP on traffic regulations.

She said contrary to interpretations the Statutory Instrument of 129 of 2015- the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations 2015, did not introduce a new schedule of fines.

“The new regulations do not introduce a new Schedule of Fines, as has been suggested in the media. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development recommended the raising of traffic fines in the 2016 National Budget Statement, but no new Schedule has been gazzetted to give effect to the suggested fines.

“The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP),are accordingly still relying on a Schedule of Deposit Fines, issued in August 2013, and the fines do not exceed $20,” she said.

“Furthermore, it must be the initiative of the accused person to pay the fine instead of appearing in court. The police may not insist on the payment of a spot fine where the road user is not in a position to do so immediately or where the offence is being contested.”

Tavagadza also lamented selective application of rigorous requirements in traffic regulations saying while these where put in place for traffic safety they should not always be criminalized.

SI 129 OF 15 requires that every vehicle must carry warning triangles that are permanently and legibly marked with the name of the manufacturer and year of manufacture, Tavagadza said such triangles may not be readily available.

“ZLHR also notes that the somewhat cumbersome provisions relating to the carrying of spare wheels, tools and fire extinguishers, though purportedly introduced to increase traffic safety, allow for exemptions for motor vehicles bearing foreign registration number plates that are in transit or on temporary entry.

“If the requirements are genuinely for public safety, then it is submitted that they should be applied across the board to all motorists,” she said.

Meanwhile residents said advocated that all traffic officer manning roadblocks should have their names clearly displayed on their uniforms.

Some concerns were also raised over rampant corrupt activities, particularly selective application of law on community operators where police owned vehicles were being left to violate regulations.

“In Mutare we have rampant corruption at police roadblocks where a commuter vehicle owned by police official is allowed to pass or even park in undesignated areas.

“For example there are commuter omnibuses marked as Vumba Heights we are told there are some police officers who own them and they violate regulations in broad day light loading passengers in undesignated areas. Even the kombi crew boasts that they are untouchable because owners are chefs,” said a resident.

Joseph Miti of ASAP called on citizens to resist the lures of corruption as he said bribing police officials was being fueled by ordinary residents.

“There is chaos in our economy and everyone has been turned corrupt because of the situation. Sometimes as the public we become gullible and participate in this and real viscous cycle it is our duty to resist this temptation,” said Miti.