Thursday, 12 February 2015

Police should make ‘admission of guilt’

This is not a banana republic and the police cannot treat the country as such by defying the law every day for the past three years and when the judges point to them where they are behaving unlawfully, they respond like bullies.

Justice Francis Bere stirred a hornet’s nest when he pronounced that spot fines by the Zimbabwe Republic Police were illegal.
This is not a banana republic and the police cannot treat the country as such by defying the law every day for the past three years and when the judges point to them where they are behaving unlawfully, they respond like bullies.
The pronouncement was met with jubilation by the motoring public given the amount of abuse they have endured at the hands of the law enforcement agencies whenever they failed to pay the spot fines.

The police, its Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi, came out guns blazing, telling the country and the world that Justice Bere was just expressing his personal opinion and therefore the pronouncement by the learned judge was not a legal position and therefore not binding on the police.

The police spokesman urged and persuaded that the motoring public should continue to co-operate with the police force and pay the spot fines like they have always done.

His appeal on the need for continued co-operation by the citizenry suggested that there was a possibility of defiance of the law by the citizens on the strength of a “wrong legal” pronouncement by a sworn judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe.

Yet in reality, and if the truth be told, the motoring public have not had any option but to submit grudgingly to police demands on spot fines because in most cases the police are not willing to co-operate or listen to the motoring public’s problems and reasons for inability to make spot fine payments.

The police have made it a hobby and habit and priority to ensure that spot fine payments are at the core of their operations than law enforcement.

This inevitably has created a wrong picture about the force as the citizenry view them more as working to fulfil their own interests than citizens’ protection.

That image and lack of confidence on the country’s police force is not healthy and defies the very heart and foundations of the roles and responsibilities of the police force.

It is clearly an issue that needs urgent attention because issues of image and confidence are fundamental for public institutions especially those tasked with enforcement of law and order. A police force which is viewed in the public as more designed to fleece the public than protect it is not good at all.

While it is reasonably understood that the pronouncements by Justice Bere were made while opening the High Court legal year and not as a court judgment and therefore not a legal position, it is important to note that there has been pronouncement made on the issue before and the police have continuously and knowingly violated the High Court judgment.

Given the rash statement in the media and acres of space bought in the media to “clarify” the position, one can have no doubt that the police actually knew and have in their files the judgment made in 2012 by Justice Maphios Cheda in the case between Bulawayo businessman Zane Babbage Vs the State.

In his ruling, Justice Cheda said the police cannot legally demand a spot fine. He ruled that a motorist should be given a ticket and reasonable time within which to pay the fine in accordance with their regulations unless if the offender elects to pay the fine on the spot.

The learned Judge did however indicate that the police were empowered to use their powers as they deemed fit depending on the motorist if he or she is a foreigner or if he or she had no acceptable identification which will in turn make it difficult for him to be traced in the event of a his/her default. He went further to state that “the police can’t and should not insist on a spot fine on the basis that he is not in possession of a ticket book which ticket book is necessary administrative tool for executing his duties”.

The reality is that the police did not challenge this ruling therefore have been wrongfully forcing the motoring public to pay spot fines.

It is therefore suspicious that the police want us to believe that Justice Bere is expressing a personal opinion and thus tantamount to interfering with work of the police when there is judgment on the matter.

The attempt to provide an excuse that Cabinet approved the justification by Ministry of Home Affairs is ridiculous given that there are no known statutory instruments to support that position.

Cabinet deliberates on so many things and gets justifications from various ministries but in the absence of supporting statutory instruments for enforcement those remain nothing but deliberations. Herald
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