By Herald / Harare: Traffic police officers will soon stop collecting fines in cash at roadblocks to curb corruption, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo has said.
He said Government was working on mechanisms to ensure fines were paid through an electronic system.
Minister Chombo revealed that about 320 police officers were fired last year for various offences bordering on abuse of office through corrupt activities.
He said this in the Senate yesterday during a Questions without Notice Session as he also revealed plans to install satellite at all roadblocks to curb corruption.
Minister Chombo was responding to MDC-T Senator for Matabeleland South, Mrs Sithembile Mlotshwa, who sought to know the purpose of roadblocks and what Government was doing about corruption allegations against traffic police officers.
He said traffic cops played a major role in policing to ensure only roadworthy and registered vehicles brought into the country legally were on the roads.
Minister Chombo said there had been an upsurge in the importation of stolen vehicles from countries such as Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa while others were legitimately bought but smuggled into the country without paying duty.
He said police roadblocks were also meant to guard against speeding.
“Out of all the 50 000 police officers that we have, some of them may not be forthright as you and I may want,” said Minister Chombo.
“Last year, we dismissed 320 police officers for stealing and abusing their offices at roadblocks and other offices. So the police is keen to clean up those police officers who are contravening the laws that they are supposed to uphold.”
Minister Chombo said the issue of spot fines at roadblocks was of concern to Government and mechanisms were in place to stop the rot.
He said people were concerned that some of the money collected at roadblocks was not sent to Treasury as provided for in the law.
“I want to inform this august House that there is a paper circulating in Government whereby roadblocks will be manned by satellite so that from an office in Harare you can see what is happening at a roadblock in Tsholotsho and you can pay using methods such plastic money or mobile transfers.
“There will not be any cash that will be exchanged. Therefore we will be reducing the temptation for police officers to be corrupt. So I am really on your side. The issues you raise are legitimate. Just give us a couple of weeks, it will be a thing of the past,” said Minister Chombo.
Zanu-PF Senator for Manicaland Cde Shadreck Chipanga said there was a recent court judgment that spot fines were illegal.
To that end, he asked Minister Chombo to confirm whether it was now Government policy to defy court judgments by allowing police officers to demand spot fines.
Minister Chombo said he was not aware of the judgment adding that he would check.
He said in the event that there was such a judgment, the police should comply since they were expected to protect the law.
High Court Judge, Justice Francis Bere, last year said the collection of spot fines from motorists by the police and impounding of their vehicles if they failed to pay up was illegal and must be stopped forthwith.
He made the remarks while officially opening the 2015 Masvingo High Court legal year.
Justice Bere said there was neither a legal framework nor law which compelled a motorist to pay a spot fine or empowered police to impound someone’s vehicle.
He said Section 356 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07), which is often cited on the matter, did not give police officers powers to force a motorist to pay a spot fine.
Justice Bere said spot fines and their retention by the police needed to be clarified as the matter had caused a lot of confusion.
However, the police dismissed Justice Bere’ statement saying it was of no legal force since it was not a court ruling but his opinion.