Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, Commissioner-General of Police, Augustine Chihuri and Attorney-General, Prince Machaya, have unanimously conceded it is unconstitutional for traffic police officers to detain and demand payment of spot fines from motorists at roadblocks.
The trio made the concessions in response to a High Court application filed by a Harare motorist, Andrew Makunura, who was last year allegedly ordered to pay a spot fine for not having a radio listener’s licence, but went on to file a constitutional challenge against payment of spot fines.
They said the applicant had an option to pay or not to pay the said spot fine on the day in question.
“The actions and conduct of the respondents (Chombo, Chihuri, Machaya and Chinyama) are guided by the law, rules and regulations. The third defendant (Chinyama) denies detaining the plaintiff,” they said through their lawyers from the government’s civil law division.
“Neither are motorists compelled to pay fines on the spot. It is only a person, who has committed an offence and admits to doing so and is willing to pay the fine, who has an option to pay a fine on the spot. In this case, the plaintiff (Makunura) opted to pay a fine for not having a listener’s licence for which he paid $10.”
They added: “He was not at all compelled to pay a fine. Spot fines have already been declared to be unconstitutional in terms of the old Constitution and defendants (Chombo, Chihuri, Machaya and Chinyama) have no reasons to disrespect the law.
“The third defendant denies he ever detained the plaintiff nor restricted his right to movement at all. None of the plaintiff’s constitutional rights have been violated and none of the defendants admit liability at all. Accordingly, the defendants pray that the plaintiff’s claim for a constitutional declaration is baseless and should be dismissed with costs.”
The matter is now set to be determined tomorrow by High Court judge, Justice Ester Muremba, after both parties presented their written arguments.
Makunura said sometime in February last year, he was in the Glen Norah area driving along High Glen Road, when he was stopped by Chinyama, who was manning a roadblock with other officers.
Makunura said he was asked to produce a driver’s licence, which he did, and thereafter Chinyama carried out an exterior examination of the vehicle. The police officer allegedly detained Makunura for not having a valid radio licence.
“The third defendant (Chinyama) proceeded to wrongfully detain the plaintiff (Makunura) for not having a valid radio listener’s licence and without just cause, confiscated his driving licence for failing to pay a spot fine for the aforementioned infraction,” Makunura’s lawyers, Mupanga Bhatasara Attorneys, said in the summons, an assertion dismissed by Chombo, Chihuri, Machaya and Chinyama.