ABOUT six traffic police officers are under investigation in Bulawayo for allegedly confiscating a motorist’s driver’s licence in a bid to force him to pay a spot fine.
The officers yesterday allegedly detained Jairos Mahlangu for more than an hour after he failed to pay a $10 spot fine for driving a car with a faulty stop light.
Last year, High Court Judge, Justice Francis Bere, while opening a High Court circuit in Masvingo said police have no legal power to force motorists to pay spot fines and authorities must take urgent measures to stop the illegal practice.
Mahlangu said police officers manning a roadblock near Mpilo Central Hospital stopped him while he was driving his children to school.
The traffic police officers’ names could not be immediately established.
Mahlangu filed a complaint with the police complaints desk.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango confirmed receiving the complaint and said the officers will be investigated for violating police rules and procedures.
“The organisation is very clear on the issue of licences. Police officers shouldn’t confiscate drivers’ licences. Corrective measures will be taken against those officers,” said Insp Simango.
She urged motorists to show their licences to police officers, instead of handing them over.
“We’re not saying that motorists shouldn’t abide by the rules of the road. They should produce their licences but not give them to police officers,” she said.
Insp Simango said if members of the public have complaints about the conduct of police officers they should not hesitate to report to the complaints desks found at all police stations.
Mahlangu said his children arrived late at school.
“I arrived at the roadblock at 6:50AM and only left at 8:15AM. The police officers were very hostile to me. They said I was driving a vehicle with a faulty stop light. I admitted to the crime before they took my driver’s licence saying I should pay a spot fine,” said Mahlangu.
He said he did not have the money and requested that the officers give him a ticket for his offence but they refused.
“I had only two dollars on me. I tried to explain to them that I didn’t have the money but they refused to listen. They kept my licence, refused to tell me the station they were working from and their names,” he said.
Mahlangu said he was forced to drive to Petra High School to leave his children before returning to the scene to find the officers having disappeared with his licence.
He said he only received his licence after 1PM after he had engaged their bosses.
“They brought my licence to my workplace after 1PM. They apologised for what they had done. But what they did affected my business I usually open my shop at 7:30AM but couldn’t do so because of the police,” he said.
In February last year, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the police were legally empowered to impose fines – but they could not insist on the payment of those fines on the spot.
In the same month last year, Andrew Makunura, a motorist from Harare took police to the Constitutional Court arguing that it was unconstitutional for them to demand spot fines.
The ruling is pending.
Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri has insisted that police would continue demanding spot fines as following up on defaulting motorists costs more than the fines that would be eventually collected.