Police will continue imposing spot fines and impounding vehicles from offending motorists because apart from the move being legal, tracing the culprits is difficult as most of them give wrong names and addresses, Government has said.
Home Affairs Deputy Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said this in Parliament while answering a question from the floor.
He also said that police will continue with the retention of the spots fines.
Ziyambi said most motorists opted to pay spot fines because the police were allowed, in terms of Section 26 (2) (b) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act, to keep them for 12 hours at a police station or roadblock while verifying their particulars.
He said they were not aware of any person who had been forced to pay a spot fine by the police as stated by High Court Judge Justice Francis Bere when he opened the 2015 Legal Year in Masvingo early this month.
“In most cases, the motoring public would rather pay the spot fine than to be kept for the 12 hours whilst verifications are being carried out,” he said.
“Police are empowered to impound vehicles where a driver fails to produce his driver’s licence for a period of 24 hours.
“What needs to be done is to implement the law as it is and not as it ought to be.”
Ziyambi said in terms of a decided court case, people were not obliged to carry identity cards and that leads to arrested drivers giving false names and addresses and the spot fines become convenient to deal with such misdemeanours.
He criticised Justice Bere for allegedly misinforming the public when he stirred the debate in Masvingo by saying it was wrong for the police to demand spot fines.
Ziyambi accused Justice Bere of hypocrisy and double standards when he attacked the police for retaining fines, yet the judiciary was doing the same to raise funds for judges’ allowances.
He was responding to Bulawayo Senator Matson Hlalo (MDC-T) who had asked why police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi issued a press statement that contradicted that of a judicial officer in respect of spot fines.
Chief Supt Nyathi defended spot fines and urged motorists to continue cooperating with the police as Justice Bere was expressing his personal views.
Ziyambi said section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act allowed the police to collect spot fines for those willing and admitting to their offences and said Justice Bere misinterpreted the same provision.
The section reads as follows: “When any person has been summoned or warned to appear in a magistrate court or has been arrested or has been informed by a peace officer, by written notice referred to in Sub Section (1) of Section 141 or otherwise, that it is intended to institute criminal proceedings against him for any offence, and a prescribed officer has reasonable grounds for believing that the court which will try the said person for such offence will, on convicting such person of such offence, not impose a sentence of imprisonment or fine exceeding level three, such person may sign and deliver to such prescribed officer a document admitting that he is guilty of the said offence and deposit with such prescribed officer such sum of money as the latter may fix.”
“Quite clearly, therefore, the above Section does not prohibit the police from collecting fines from traffic offenders who are willing to pay the fine on the spot,” said Ziyambi.
Another consideration for accepting spot fines, he said, was the cost element involved in pursuing fines less than $20 and gave an example of the implications of pursuing a motorist based in Lupane who would have been arrested in Harare.
“Surely, in such a scenario it makes a lot of sense for the driver to pay the $5 on the spot rather than waste much more to recover such a small figure,” said Ziyambi.
Ziyambi said Cabinet approved the retention of funds by the police and that Justice Bere’s comments disregarded the doctrine of separation of powers between the Executive and the Judiciary.
He said the retention of spot fines was justified on the basis that there was little fiscal support from Treasury due to the harsh economic environment and the books were subject to both internal and external audit by the Auditor General.
“The judiciary itself is enjoying some retention, which is being used to pay allowances for judges and other workers under the Judicial Services Commission,” said Ziyambi. “For the judge to attack the police for enjoying the same privileges smacks of hypocrisy and double standards.”
Ziyambi lambasted Justice Bere for “commenting on hearsay, rumours and bar talk” when he said police set up illegal collection points for easy passage for commuter omnibus operators.
“It is unethical for the judge to pre-empt a case that may one day be brought before him for adjudication or determination,” he said.
A Harare man Mr Andrew Makunura has since filed a Constitutional Court challenge seeking an order compelling police to stop demanding spot fines at roadblocks.
Through his lawyer Mr Tonderai Bhatasara, Mr Makunura argued that the demand for spot fines violated Sections 69 (1) and (3), 86 (3), 68, 66 and 71 of the Constitution.
Mr Makunura claimed that he was stopped by Constable Agrippa Chinyama at a police roadblock along High Glen Road in Harare on February 12 this year while taking his children to school and asked to pay a $10 spot fine for not displaying a car radio licence.
He said after indicating that he did not have the money on him, he was delayed for more than an hour as Cst Chinyama insisted on the spot fine.