Gift Phiri 2 April 2017
HARARE – Zimbabwean authorities have generated outrage after increasing
spot fines by up to 100 percent to try to deter road carnage, to the
bemusement and anger of many motorists.
Motorists demanded a rollback of that increase to make sure spot fines
This comes as Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has just slapped
suffering small businesses – including hair salons, driving schools and
commuter omnibuses – with taxes as he bids to shore up the State’s heavily
Anarchy has ruled for years on the roads, with government moving to hit
offenders harder in the wallet for breaking traffic rules, even at the
lower end of the scale, with a view to force drivers to drive more
Under new legislation outlined under the Finance Act gazetted last week
Friday, spot fines for many offences rose to $30 from $20 as part of
efforts to change a system that has allowed – some say even encouraged – a
culture of indifference toward traffic rules and road safety.
Section 35 changes Levels 1, 2 and 3 of the Standard Scale of Fines in the
Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act “with effect from 1st January
Level 1 is now $10 – it was previously $5; Level 2 is $15, it was $10;
and Level 3 is $30, it was $20.
Police “spot fines” have dramatically gone up, with the more serious petty
traffic offences attracting a fine of $30 instead of $20 and
proportionately smaller fines being requested for lesser petty offences.
The current standard scale of fines was last reviewed in February 2009,
when the country migrated to the use of multi-currencies.
“Whereas the fines are supposed to be deterrent, this, however, is not
being achieved due to the low level of some of the fines,” Chinamasa said
in his 2017 National Budget.
Driving a vehicle without windscreen wiper and driving without head or
side lights; which used to attract a $5 fine is now $10; cutting corners
when turning right and failure to signal when slowing down, stopping or
turning, which used to attract a $10 fine is now $20; and proceeding
against a red robot; overtaking over solid line and having a
non-functional foot brake which was $20 is now $30.
It is chaos on the streets, Chinamasa said.
Shared taxis called mishikashika, often with broken tail-lights, stop
indiscriminately to pick-up and drop passengers.
Minibuses turn two lanes into three. Pedestrians sprint across the road.
Drivers emerge from corner shops carrying beers, stepping into
Such widespread disregard for personal safety and obeying the rules of the
road has to be stopped in the country, the Finance minister said.
“Most of the carnage that is witnessed on the country’s roads is a result
of human error arising from failure to observe road traffic regulations,”
“This is exacerbated by non-deterrent fines. It is, therefore, proposed to
increase the standard scale of fines of level 1 to 3, with effect from
January 1, 2017.”
Traffic accidents are among the leading killers of Zimbabwean citizens,
claiming more lives than the rising levels of violent crime, which receive
far more media attention.
Advocates of the deterrent road spot fines say they are desperately needed
to curb the widespread flouting of road safety rules.
Street signs at major intersections warn drivers to obey traffic laws, yet
these same streets are lined with petrol pumps where attendants sell beer
to drivers and drive-through liquor stores.
So far, road safety education campaigns by the Traffic Safety Council of
Zimbabwe using celebrities such as musicians Sandra Ndebele and Charles
Charamba, including those against drunk driving, have not resonated with
“The police were already extorting us and now they want to increase the
spot fines. It’s a horrible lot of money they’ll be making us pay in spot
fines, look at the (state of the) economy,” said motorist Gerald
Each year, traffic police wielding spikes write tens of thousands of
tickets for infractions such as running a red light, and speeding.
“Well, obviously, this is a positive change. At least it will bring some
order,” said a policeman who was filling in a ticket for a driver who had
“My hands are sure to be full now.”
For years, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has complained that the police
does not remit the money it raises from fines to the Consolidated Revenue
Several officers have been fired for bribe-taking, but this has done very
little to eradicate the scourge.
The new fines are likely to worsen the corruption because very few people
can afford to pay a $30 spot fine.
Corrupt traffic police normally negotiate for payment from offenders,
which would usually be much lower than the prescribed fines.