Motorist challenges Harare City Council’s impoundment of vehicle
'Impounding a motor vehicle in order to force the owner to pay a penalty amounts to extortion.'
A local motorist has petitioned the High Court for an order declaring the practice of Harare Municipal police impounding motor vehicles for alleged violations of city traffic laws to be unlawful.
Reason Mupanga of Seke contends that the city traffic enforcement authorities’ unpopular practice of forcing motorists to pay fines amounted to extortion.
Mupanga claims his car was impounded earlier this year despite the fact that he had committed no crime.
He only got the car back after paying a $68 fine.
In court documents gleaned by this publication, Mupanga claims his car was seized after he had refused to pay a bribe.
“The applicant intends to apply to the High Court of Zimbabwe sitting at Harare for a review of the Form of Notice issued by the city of Harare in terms of the Municipal Traffic Laws Enforcement Act (Chapter 29:10) and Harare (Clamping and Tow-Away) By-Laws, Statutory Instrument 104 of 2005; and the practice of impounding a motor vehicle in order to force the owner to pay a penalty.
“The Form of Notice…does not comply with the provisions of section 4 of the Municipal Traffic Laws Enforcement Act [Chapter 29:10].
“Furthermore, the practice of impounding a motor vehicle in order to force the owner to pay a penalty amounts to extortion. It is unlawful,” he says.
In his founding affidavit, Mupanga said on 27 January 2023 at around 9am, he was driving along Lytton Road to Old Marimba, Mufakose in the company of a friend whom he later dropped in the industrial area.
“There was no ‘NO STOPPING’ sign prohibiting me from stopping,” he says.
“At the point that I stopped, the road was quite wide with enough to accommodate a stopping car without disturbing the flow of traffic.”
Mupanga says he was immediately confronted by two plain clothes men who ushered themselves into his car and identified themselves as police officers.
The two also signaled their colleagues who were a little further down the road to come over.
All the four were not in uniform, he says.
“They tried to solicit for a bribe from me to which l vehemently refused.
“All four stout police officers piled into my small car and instructed me to drive back onto Paisley Road towards Coventry Road with them.
“Along the way, further requests for a bribe were made. I refused to pay,” Mupanga says.
He was then ordered to drive into the city council’s central stores where his car was impounded before being made to pay a fine.
Mupanga says despite paying a fine for the release of his car, he remains aggrieved by the experience which he has elected to challenge through the courts.
“The Form of Notice that is issued by the CITY OF HARARE violates every basic tenet of natural justice.
“In a minor traffic offence, the system that is reflected in the Form of Notice, such as that written out for me and annexed hereto effectively makes the City of Harare, the prosecutor of the case, the judge and the executioner. That cannot be legal,” he said.