LEGISLATORS yesterday added their voice to calls for police to stop collecting spot fines saying the move was illegal as it was not backed by any legislation. High Court Judge Justice Francis Bere said in an address officially opening the Masvingo High Court circuit that there was no law or legal framework compelling the police to demand spot fines or impound someone’s vehicle.
|MPs oppose spot fines by Zimbabwe Republic Police|
The strong police response on Tuesday echoes their reaction last year to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority commissioner-general Gershem Pasi’s remarks to parliament that law-enforcement agents were collecting between $3 million and $7 million per month at roadblocks, but the money was not being handed over to treasury. He said the money was susceptible to possible abuse while in the hands of law enforcement agents. The police said the monthly retentions have never exceeded $1 million per month.
Yesterday, Zanu-PF Mutasa South MP Cde Irene Zindi who has previously raised concern in parliament over spot fines, asking the police to table audited statements in the legislative assembly told Chronicle that there is now need for the executive to issue a statement on the issue to avoid confusion.
She also said she was not aware of any law empowering the police to insist on spot fines, adding that law enforcement agents had not used any law to defend their actions.
The MP added that since she suggested last year that accounts for monies collected by the police should be tabled in Parliament, nothing has been done.
“I’m sure the judge was clear that there’s no law for police to collect the spot fines. There’s no law for police to come with a defence. Since the judge has taken a position, it’s cause for concern to all Zimbabweans which requires the Minister of Home Affairs to take a position to clear that confusion so that the police aren’t seen as a law unto themselves,” said Cde Zindi.
The chairperson of the Portifolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Jessie Majome said Justice Bere’s declaration on spot fines could not be said to be his personal opinion because the duty of the judiciary is to interpret the law.
“In the doctrine of separation of powers, the judiciary interprets the law; the police only enforce the law. To say it’s a personal opinion is contemptuous of the law. I think one of the problems that we have is that we don’t have an Attorney General. The Attorney General is the government’s chief legal advisor and he would have advised the police under the circumstances,” said Majome, MDC-T’s Harare West MP.
Jonathan Samukange, the chairperson of the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) said the police defence does not hold water as it failed to cite any law that empowers them to collect spot fines.
“If you collect money from a citizen, a motorist or a resident, it must be in terms of the law: the Road Traffic Act and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act as read together,” said the Mudzi South legislator.
The PLC chairperson reiterated his Tuesday argument that at law, a motorist must be given seven days to pay a fine at a police station, or appear in court.
“But the police say ‘park your car, give me your keys’ and they detain you by the roadside. That’s extortion and isn’t provided for under the law. The right to plead guilty or not has been removed from you and people end up comparing two evils and say which one can I live with. They end up paying $20 after weighing the business they would lose while by the roadside, but that’s extortion,” said Samukange.
“It doesn’t protect the interests of the public or motorists when police behave unlawfully. It raises the question, who will guard the guard?” Chronicles