Police have arrested over 100 motorists and impounded more than 200 vehicles in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo province for allegedly violating various traffic regulations, which include driving without fire extinguishers.
The motorists are failing to pay the fines of up to $100 each proposed by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa in Zimbabwe’s 2016 national budget.
Some of the motorists were released from police custody and instructed to raise money to pay fines for offenses ranging from driving without fire extinguishers to lack of red traffic sign posts.
Over 200 impounded vehicles condemned to have some defects are being kept at Chikato Police Station.
Some of the angry motorists released this afternoon said they won’t be able to raise money to pay the fines. They claimed that some of them will end up paying up to $4,000 each for allegedly violating various traffic laws.
One of the motorists, Tatenda Moyo, claimed that the government is targeting motorists in order to raise money to boost its drying coffers.
“It’s very unfair what the police are doing. I spent about two hours in police custody after my car was found with a fire extinguisher that is not working. Government is trying to fund raise through these hefty fines but we can’t afford (to pay) them we are struggling.”
Another local resident, who declined to be identified in fear of being victimized by the police, said he is shocked that he was locked up in a filthy police cell for allegedly breaking a minor traffic offence. He said this is very unfair.
“The $100 fine was not fair actually it’s a spot fine. Right now I don’t have money to go to work. The car I used to go to work has been impounded and they will need more money for storage. Where do I get that money when we are lowly paid? It’s very difficult for me and I don’t think this is fair to us motorists.”
Tsitsi Makamure, a student whose car was also impounded, said she was shocked when the police demanded $300 for three offenses. She has no hope of raising the money.
“My car was impounded. I didn’t have a third number plate, fire extinguisher and (warning traffic) triangles. My parents are civil servants they are lowly paid and I am a student. I don’t know how I will get the money but that was a bit rough.”
Masvingo police spokesperson, Inspector Charity Mazula, who declined to be recorded on tape by Studio 7, confirmed the arrests but said she could not ascertain the exact number of motorists arrested and the number of cars impounded.
But Home Affairs Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Chairperson, Lilian Timeveus, said the $100 spot fines and impounding of cars was illegal as the new fine regime was not approved by parliament.
Timeveus said, “It is highly illegal and criminal to implement that spot fine. When Minister (Patrick) Chinamasa announced that in parliament we told him that was illegal and he said he will look into that issue so we are surprised that the police are already implementing that. “We encourage the police to stop that.”
Some critics say the government has become desperate in raising money to the extent of finding all means of raising money to pay its 500,000 strong workforce while catering for other needs of Zimbabweans.