AT least 24 motorists who had their vehicles confiscated by the police under the on-going “Operation Mushikashika” Friday filed an urgent application at the High Court against the blitz.
In their application, the motorists argue that the confiscation of their vehicles is against the Road Traffic Act and the Constitution of Zimbabwe. They are seeking an order declaring the blitz unlawful and demand the immediate return of their vehicles.
The police, with the support of the Harare municipal police and officials from the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) in January unleashed “Operation Mushikashika” and have been confiscating vehicles suspected to be operating as pirate taxis since.
Confiscated vehicle are then dumped at Chikurubi Police Support Unit and over 400 vehicles are reported to be parked there so far.
However, in their urgent court application, the vehicle owners said many of the cars are being confiscated when they are stationary or after they had stopped at road traffic stops.
“These acts do not give rise to offenders in terms of the Road Traffic Act. While the motor vehicles are confiscated under provisions of the law that are inconsistent with the facts of the matter, they accrue storage charges of $5 per day until the applicants have been cleared by at least ten compliance departments that include City of Harare, Zimra and the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR),” one of the complainants, Nyasha Munetsi, says in her affidavit.
“The imposition of the storage charge, under circumstances where the respondents unlawfully confiscated the vehicles, is clearly unlawful and unconstitutional. The applicants’ vehicles that have been attached are personal vehicles that are for use of their families.
“The continued detention of those vehicles is thus causing great prejudice to them notwithstanding the fact that they are also accumulating storage charges. The blatant nature of the respondents’ actions requires that the court moves with speed to grant the relief sought,” said Munetsi.
Police commissioner general, Augustine Chihuri, has been cited as the first respondent with the minister of home affairs, Ignatius Chombo, as the second respondent. The vehicle owners are being represented by Tendai Biti.
“On 16 February, I was driving my recently acquired family vehicle namely Honda Stream along Mutare Road when I was stopped at a traffic stop commonly known as a roadblock by a policeman under the employ and control of the first respondent,” another complainant, Maxwell Manyanhaire says in his affidavit.
“I was advised to drive to Support Unit in Chikurubi on the allegation that I had been stationary and had stopped for too long at the traffic stop. The allegation against me was absurd both in terms of law and facts.
“The person who arrested me is Assistant Inspector Jeche and he advised me that I had been arrested for driving without due care and attention in breach of the Road Traffic Act,” Manyanhaire said.
He added that he was then taken to Harare Central Police Station where he was detained and interrogated for hours before he was released and told to come the following day. However, when he returned the next day he failed to locate Jeche.
“After a week in which I frantically moved trying to get my vehicle released I was asked by the assistant inspector to pay an admission of guilt in the sum of $20 to enable my vehicle to be released. I paid….. It was my belief that upon payment of the fine, my vehicle would be released but it was not,” said Manyanhaire.
He said the police produced a form headed; “Stakeholders Gate Pass”, which required that before the vehicle is released, Manyanhaire had to seek clearance from 10 different departments.
Some of these departments are the VID, CVR, the police traffic department, Road Motor Transport Division, Harare City Council, Zinara, Zimra, police support unit, the police vehicle theft squad and the police district commanding officer for traffic in Harare (Dispol).
“The challenge with complying and fulfilling all the requirements of the Stakeholders Gate Pass are that the responsible officials, whether it is Zinara, Zimra, Support Unit or VTS, all have to visit the vehicle at Support Unit at their own time, discretion and pleasure,” said Manyanhaire.