HIGH Court Judge Justice Esther Muremba on Wednesday 22 February 2017 issued an ultimatum ordering a Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officer to return a driver’s licence which he had confiscated from a motorist two years ago as inducement to coerce him to pay a spot fine.
Andrew Makunura, a Harare motorist, who is employed as a registered general nurse by the National Blood Transfusion Services, had his
driver’s licence confiscated by Constable Agrippa Chinyama, a ZRP officer, at a roadblock mounted by the police along High Glen road in Harare on 12 February 2015 as he was driving his children to school and taking his wife, Tafadzwa Kajasi to work.
Chinyama confiscated Makunura’s driver’s licence to force him to pay a $10 spot fine after he was found without displaying a valid radio listener’s licence, an offence which he did not dispute since it had expired.
Makunura advised Chinyama that he had no money on him and asked to be allowed to leave and drop his children at school and pay the fine later after giving the police his residential address as well as his work address.
But Chinyama turned down his offer and insisted that he pays the fine before they later released him and asked him to return and pay the fine before lunchtime to Assistant Inspector Dube stationed at Southerton Police Station and then collect his driver’s licence after spending more than one hour holed up at the roadblock which resulted in his children arriving late at school.
Chinyama, Makunura said, gave him his mobile phone number as +263 773 286 515 on a piece of paper and advised him that he should contact him when coming to Southerton Police Station to pay the fine.
However, when Makunura made a follow up on his driver’s licence, the police officer denied ever taking it.
This compelled Makunura, who was represented by Tonderai Bhatasara, a member of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, to issue summons in the High Court seeking an order compelling Chinyama to return his driver’s licence and also declaring that Chinyama’s demand for a spot fine from him abrogates his rights protected under Section 49, Section 66, Section 69, Section 71 and Section 86 of the Constitution.
In their plea, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo, ZRP Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Chinyama, who were all listed as defendants by Makunura averred that the motorist retained his driver’s licence after producing it to the law enforcement agent and argued that none of the motorist’s constitutional rights were violated and his licence was not confiscated.
But in a judgment handed down on Wednesday 22 February 2017, Justice Muremba ruled that she was convinced that Chinyama had confiscated Makunura’s driver’s licence to coerce him to pay the spot fine.
Justice Muremba ruled that by detaining Makunura for a lengthy period at the roadblock as he attended to other motorists, Chinyama violated the registered general nurse’s right to personal liberty as enshrined in Section 49 (1) (b) of the Constitution.
The High Court judge ruled that the deprivation of Makunura’s liberty by Chinyama caused him and his wife to report late for work while the motorist’s children also reported late for school too.
The detention of Makunura by Chinyama, Justice Muremba said, was arbitrary and without just cause.