Home » Judicial » Traffic Spot Fines Are Just Extortion By Another Name [blog]

A Zimbabwean judge has opened up a Pandora’s box by questioning the legality of traffic ‘spot fines’. Waza blogger Tswarelo Mothobi, believes that the lifting of this rule would make life easier for kombi companies, taxi crews, and the general populace. The police disagree.

Consider a recent incident, where sixteen people were injured because a police officer threw spikes in front of an oncoming kombi, all for a $3 bribe. Spot fines, where motorists have to pay cash to the police when caught violating a traffic law, have to go. It’s that simple.

Such a move would greatly lessen the danger the police pose to innocent civilians, commuters and other motorists. But, of course, the police are challenging the judge’s statement.

Determination of guilt

Getting stopped and accused doesn’t mean a motorist is actually guilty, but the police act as if that is the case. The police traffic unit taxes Kombi crews left, right, and centre because of this spot fine policy.

A regular roadblock demands $3 -and there are two shifts in a day- tallying up to a daily $6. The defender (a type of police vehicle) demands $5. Coming across the VID (a grey twin-cab) will cost a kombi $10. The BMW or Benz is $20.

It’s even ridiculous to consider that there is a ‘price list’ for going through a roadblock. The corruption now has grades. Scratching the spot fine would greatly reduce the corruption on our streets. No wonder transport operators in Bulawayo have finally said enough is enough, and decided to go on strike as from 9 March, 2015, protesting massive extortion and harrassment by traffic police.

transport operators in Bulawayo have finally said enough is enough

Money for a ‘cola’

These spot fines, euphemistically called ‘money for a coca cola’, also affect other motorists who are just going on about their regular business. If you have been detained at a roadblock for over an hour because you didn’t have money to pay on the spot, then you know what I’m talking about.

Now, shelving the spot fine policy would wipe away all this, and any and every arrested motorist would have a chance to plead their case in a court of law.

There should be a central place where fines are paid, and a receipting system. In the current situation, where motorists sometimes do not collect a receipt, or a $10 fine ends up attracting only $4 and we ‘forget the receipt,’ who knows where all the revenue goes?

Knee-jerk government responses

Initially, the Zimbabwean Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Obert Mpofu threatened to wipe out all kombis and replace them with buses. This was just ridiculous, coming from a government that ran ZUPCO (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company) and NRZ (National Railways of Zimbabwe) to the ground.

The promise must have been made before elections because it is one of those issues that have disappeared into nothingness, like the two million jobs promised by the ruling party’s election manifesto, ZIMASSET.

Now the Bulawayo City Council is attempting to bottle-neck all kombis into associating with either BUPTA (Bulawayo Public Transport Association) or Tshova Mubaiwa, the two transport associations in Bulawayo.

In a country whose constitution allows ‘freedom of trade and association,’ it would actually be illegal to not award a kombi a permit because they are not part of an association. But we all know illegality is a matter of opinion and leverage in Zimbabwe.

illegality is a matter of opinion and leverage in Zimbabwe.

Unofficial industry

My point is that the kombis have held the nation’s economy intact by commuting civilians not only within towns and cities but across the country, without the government’s or council assistance.

In fact, government and council have only stood to benefit through charging for much needed fitness certificates from the vehicle inspection department, vehicle and passenger insurance, taxes, ministry of transports route authority, official toll gates, and the much more ubiquitous unofficial tolls (police roadblocks).

Yet, they still want to create difficulty for an unofficial industry that has served where they have failed. Imagine their audacity, with many unofficial and illegal vehicles pirating commuter routes and taking business away from registered and legal commuters, the council wants to further harass these legal kombis.

Wiping out corruption

The removal of the spot fine and the recognition of the constitutional law of freedom of trade and association by council will definitely be a huge step towards wiping out corruption.

I suppose all these irrational measures are to divert us from the fact that many of these illegal vehicles, which ironically appear to be immune to spot fines, are actually owned by police and council officers.

How does one police the police?

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Source : Waza