BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) has filed an urgent chamber application at the High Court seeking to block the police from arresting commuters who boarded pirate taxis after failing to get Zupco transport services.
The association is arguing that there is no prescribed law which criminalises the use of other vehicles other than Zupco buses.
Government recently ordered the arrest of passengers who board pirate taxis known as mushikashika and that the offenders should pay a $2 000 spot fine.
PAZ, represented by its national co-ordinator Tafadzwa Goliati, is cited as the first applicants while Charles Nyoni, who was fined for hitchhiking, and George Tsaurai, a private vehicle owner, were second and third applicants respectively in the matter.
Through their lawyer from the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, the applicants are seeking a court declaration that the arrest of passengers who board private vehicles is unlawful.
Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, Harare top police officer Walter Tembo and Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe were cited as respondents.
The applicants argued that Zupco was failing to provide adequate transport and had created a transport crisis as hundreds of commuters were being left stranded at bus termini.
They also argued that criminalisation of boarding private transport was a violation of citizens’ right to human dignity and movement and administrative justice, as the parastatal was failing to avail enough buses to the citizens.
“The passenger cannot be arrested for hitchhiking under sections 7(2) as read with Section 28(2) and Section 49(2) of 2016, Road Traffic (traffic Sign and Signals) regulations, 2016 unless they are a pedestrian who has attempted to pick up passengers at a point which is 500m from a regulated sign which prohibits hitchhiking,” said the applicants.
“The harm which is alleged in this application is ongoing for every passenger in Zimbabwe who is faced with the prospect of an unlawful operation being enforced against them. The threat is yet to happen for many and may happen to a person more than once as long as this operation continues.”
They further argued that it was not prescribed by the law for a passenger to be implicated where a transport operator was not in compliance with the law.
“The Road motor Transportation Act [Chapter 13:15] is very clear in terms of who is implicated where there is non-compliance with laws related to the transport services,” said the applicants.
“Section 7 of that Act provides that the transport operator is guilty of an offence where there is non-compliance with the law related to his service and shows that passengers do not have anything to do with the non-compliance. Similarly, section 39 of the Road Motor Transportation Act [Chapter 13:15] provides that failure to observe terms and conditions of license or the road authority implicates the driver or the conductor of the vehicle concerned.”
The applicants want the respondents to pay the cost of suit at a higher scale.
The matter is yet to be set down for hearing.