Thursday, 12 February 2015

VICE President Emmerson Mnangagwa blasts spot fines abuse

VICE President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who is also the Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister — yesterday expressed concern over allegations of serious abuse of the spot fines system by traffic police officers, saying their conduct was blighting an otherwise helpful administrative process.
Speaking after addressing students of the Joint Command and Staff Course Number 28 at the Zimbabwe Defence College on the Constitution of Zimbabwe in Harare, VP Mnangagwa said spot fines were gazetted to prevent flooding the courts with minor crimes which only require one to pay a fine of $10 or $20 within seven days.
Vice President Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is also Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister.
VP Mnangagwa’s comments came as Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi told our Bulawayo Bureau that Government would address the contentious issue of spot fines.

“We are concerned with the abuse that the police may be doing on the spot fines facility,” he said.

“There is serious concern about the abuse by some police officers who take bribes and do not issue tickets or receipts of the money they receive from motorists,” VP Mnangagwa said.

He said it was worrisome that a person driving on a highway at 80km per hour in a 60km zone can be charged by police for speeding even in the absence of a sign indicating the speed limit.

He said the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development must ensure that road signs were in place to ensure that motorists were not inconvenienced.

VP Mnangagwa said while it was necessary to regulate the use highways by motorists, police must ensure that motorists were not inconvenienced by bureaucratic processes that required them to pay the fine at the crime scene.

He said every citizen needed to play an important role in dealing with corruption.

Cde Mnangagwa said corruption was hindering development in the country and that there should be no any sacred cows when dealing with the scourge.

“I for one, with the position I have now, will deal with the issue in the cluster that I now administer,” he said.

VP Mnangagwa said the Government was in the process of reconstituting the Ant-Corruption Commission whose term of office expired in August last year.

VP Mnangagwa concurred with High Court Judge Justice Francis Bere’s pronouncement that the law does not empower police to enforce spot fines.

Justice Bere, who was speaking as he opened the Masvingo High Court 2015 Legal Year on Monday, bemoaned the lack of a legal framework or any law compelling motorists to pay spot fines.

VP Mnangagwa said while Justice Bere made the pronouncement outside the confines of a court, he was nevertheless correct in saying no specific law existed to empower police to charge spot fines.

“First, the judge was not in court and he did not make any judgments. He made a statement which anybody can make anywhere and that cannot be the law of the country,” he said.

“The second issue is; was he correct or not correct despite the fact that he was not in court. It is true that there is no specific or express law that provides for such.

“However, administratively, the spot fines were gazetted for various reasons, including among others, the fact that there are very minor offences, which if we strictly want them to go to court we would flood our courts with thousands of minor offences which only require one to pay a fine of $10 or $20 within seven days.

“We don’t have such accommodation. So, this is an administrative method to easy the dispensation and delivery of justice.”

In 2012, Justices Lawrence Kamocha and Maphios Cheda, sitting as a Court of Appeal in 2012, outlawed the imposition of spot fines by the police under High Court case HB 167/12 that was brought by a motorist Zaine Babbage who was contesting sentence for using a cellphone while driving.

The learned judges said, “A police officer cannot 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 a necessary administrative tool for executing his duties. A police officer’s failure to carry relevant stationery cannot be used to curb or infringe and/or infringe peoples’ rights.”

Minister Mohadi, under whose ministry the police fall, yesterday said Government was going to address the contentious spot fines, but could not immediately reveal the ministry’s position on the matter.

“This issue has been debated for too long unnecessarily in the media,” he said in an interview with our Bulawayo Bureau. “We will have to interrogate it further and come up with the way forward and this would be done outside the glare of the media.”

The decision by the police to dig in over the spots fines appears motivated by inadequate budgetary support from treasury, a situation that has seen it reeling from an $87 million debt.

A recent report by the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services chaired by Zanu-PF Bubi MP Clifford Sibanda, shows that the Ministry of Home Affairs, under whose portfolio the police falls, was allocated $410 million, but 91,6 percent of that would be chewed by salaries.

This leaves less than nine percent for operations of the ministries’ eight departments that include the police, the Registrar General’s Office; the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, the Immigration Department and the Censorship Board.

“Notable financially distressed departments are the ZRP whose debt is ballooning since 2009 and is now at $87,851,572. However, the debt was not provisioned for in the 2015 budget,” reads part of the report.

“The debt arose from non-payment of services rendered by both private and public sector organisations. The services include accommodation, transport, utilities, office materials and communication.” Herald
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