Human rights lawyers and members of the public have welcomed a pronouncement by High Court judge Justice Francis Bere that it is unconstitutional for police to demand spot fines and impound vehicles at roadblocks.
Speaking at the official opening of the Masvingo High Court circuit Monday, Justice Francis Bere said the illegal collection of spot fines had distracted police from their core business.
But in a statement Tuesday, Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesperson, Paul Nyathi, said Justice Bere only expressed his personal views.
“The statement was made outside court as it is not an issue which was brought before the court by someone so that arguments are heard from either side,” Nyathi said.
He added that “police wish to advise the public that Justice Bere is expressing his own personal opinion and nothing has changed in terms of the procedures which empower the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to accept deposit fines - whether it is a criminal or traffic offence.
“Justice Bere’s statement is not binding on police operations. We encourage the public to continue cooperating with the police on all activities to ensure the smooth delivery of justice in the country and maintenance of law, order and security.”
For several years, anti-corruption lobby groups such as Afrobarometer and Transparency International Zimbabwe have implicated the police at roadblocks in shakedowns.
Transport operators and motorists who spoke to Studio 7 said they welcome the judge’s remarks.
Lawyer Dzimbabwe Chimbga of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights told Studio 7 that Justice Bere is spot on.
“The police have been acting outside the realm of the law; you cannot force someone to pay an amount which he can pay within 7 days at a police station or charges that one can challenge in court.”
Last year, Zanu-PF Member of Parliament, Irene Zindi, has also called on the police to declare money collected from motorists as spot fines on a weekly basis.
Responding, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said they would comply if so requested, adding that “as of now, the requirement we have been following is that we are required to declare it to treasury and to have our accounts audited.”
But during the tenure of the unity government, then Finance Minister Tendai Biti often clashed with Co-Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi over non-remittance of police fines to the treasury.