High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri has ruled as illegal for traffic police officers to impound defective vehicles at roadblocks over owners’ failure to pay spot fines.
In a landmark ruling that is set to bring cheers among motorists this festive season, the interim order, delivered last Friday, followed an urgent application filed by two motorists, Sharon Moffat and Claudia Muvuti, challenging the impounding of their vehicles at separate police roadblocks in the capital city because they could not raise the required spot fines.
Justice Phiri ruled against the police action and ordered the immediate release of the vehicles.
“This court holds that the impounding of the aforesaid vehicles and the subsequent inspection of the vehicles in dispute were also illegal. This court also holds that the notices prohibiting the use of the vehicles were issued after the service of the present urgent application on the respondents and, accordingly, the notices shall in the interim be of no force and effect and that the vehicles be released to the applicants forthwith,” part of the interim order read.
Moffat is the centre manager for the Legal Resources Foundation in Masvingo, while Muvuti is a Harare resident.
In their court challenge, the two cited Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and officers-in-charge at Milton Park and Avondale police stations as respondents.
In her application, Muvuti submitted that on December 9 this year, she was waved down and stopped at a police roadblock while driving along Teviodale Road. Police then demanded that she pays a $30 spot fine for a non-functional headlamp and an improperly displayed third registration number plate.
When she indicated that she did not have ready cash on her and offered to pay electronically, the police officers allegedly insisted on cash payment.
They then allegedly ordered her to drive to Avondale Police Station and detained her vehicle.
On December 11, Moffat was also allegedly stopped at a roadblock in Milton Park and ordered to pay a $10 spot fine for a non-functional stoplight on her car. She, too, indicated that she did not have the cash and offered to pay electronically, but the officers would have none of that. They then impounded the vehicle and detained it at Milton Park Police Station.
Moffat said the police officers later gave her a paper written Milton Park OB8676/16 and ordered her to leave.
The pair’s lawyer, Philipah Muchemwa, argued in court that it was illegal for the police to impound motor vehicles as a way of compelling motorists to pay spot fines.