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Lawyers challenge blitz on unregistered vehicles

HUMAN rights’ lawyers have challenged the ongoing police blitz targeting unregistered vehicles and dismissed the operation as unreasonable and unconstitutional.

Harare lawyer Tazarura Takunda Goto Musarurwa on Friday filed an urgent High Court chamber application seeking a court order compelling the police to return his Mazda CX -5 vehicle that was impounded on January 19 during the blitz.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers of Human Rights (ZHLR) also wrote to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) on the day challenging its decision to label all motorists who have not registered vehicles as criminal elements.

Police recently launched a blitz targeting unlicensed and unregistered vehicles arguing that such cars were being used to commit crimes such as robberies, murder, kidnapping and rape.

In his founding affidavit, Musarurwa said his vehicle which he imported on November 11, 2021 had temporary number plates with an indefinite validity before it was impounded.

He said the vehicle was seized despite his several unsuccessful attempts to get the registration plates from the central vehicle registry (CVR).

“The actions by the first respondent are not supported by law,” Musarurwa said.

He cited Police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, officer commanding Harare Central and the City of Harare as the respondents respectively.

“Nowhere is it provided for in the Act that a vehicle can be impounded under any circumstances. These actions amount to spoliation and justify urgent relief on that basis alone. Section 6 (2)   provides  the offense clause for failure  to register a vehicle  and this is level four fine or three months imprisonment  or both such fine  and imprisonment.

“Assuming that there are robbers on the prowl, this cannot justify the breaking of the law in order to apprehend these robbers. Everything must be done within the confines of the law.”

He also said he failed to obtain the registration plates before his vehicle was imponded because the situation at the CVR offices was “chaotic”.

“I have personally visited the CVR offices and it is quite chaotic. I have preferred hiring an agent to obtain the number plates as I did not feel comfortable joining an extremely rowdy crowd in order to obtain vehicle registration,” Musarurwa said.

“I have since done so and the process is underway. It is however unclear when such number plates will be issued as there remains a huge backlog caused by the sudden rush of all unregistered vehicles.”

Transport minister Felix Mhona last week acknowledged the chaos at the CVR offices, and said the back log in the issuance of number plates was a result of corruption.

In a letter addressed to Matanga on Friday, the ZLHR said the police blitz against unregistered vehicles was legally offside.

“It is also unfortunate that the ZRP now labels everyone without number plates as being criminal elements committing the gross acts as stated in your tweets….,” the ZLHR said.

“Your operation is a dragnet and has become arbitrary without any room for discretion. Section 66 of the Constitution provides for the right to freedom of movement which is now being unduly and unreasonably hindered due to the dragnet operation. Further section 68 of the Constitution provides for the right to administrative conduct that is reasonable.

“We believe that your utterances through your statements and action of labelling and restricting movement are unreasonable and cannot be justified in a democratic society.”

The lawyer also wrote to Mhona informing him that motorists were struggling to acquire registration plates despite his indications that government had enough stock.

Police have impounded nearly 6 000 unregistered vehicles in the national blitz.

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