Prof Moyo on spot fines debate

Prof Moyo

Prof Moyo

Writing on his Facebook page last night Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo had this to say:1. While the media spotlight on ZRP spot fines has hogged the limelight, it has sadly not shed any light on an issue with immense public interest.

2. In fact the mainstream media has since last Tuesday created utter confusion through misleading reports about the alleged illegality of ZRP spot fines.

3. First the mainstream media reported on Tuesday that Justice Bere had ruled that ZRP spot fines are illegal and that this alleged ruling was made by the judge while he was giving a speech opening the 2015 High Court circuit in Masvingo province.

4. There were two serious problems with these reports which have caused untold confusion and misunderstanding about an important matter that affects the motoring public.

5. The first problem is that it turns out that Justice Bere did not actually rule that ZRP spot fines are illegal. Rather, all that Justice Bere said on this connection was that “There’s no law which compels a motorist to deposit a fine with the police if he (the motorist) desires to challenge the alleged offence. Furthermore Justice Bere bemoaned the manner in which the police sometimes go about enforcing the law in a manner that smacks of corruption.

6. The fact of the matter is that the law does in fact empower the ZRP to impose spot fines where a motorist does not contest the alleged infringement of a traffic law and willingly signs an admission of guilt form. Justice Bere did not contest this but he decried alleged bully tactics by police who sometimes engage in that unlawful practice to intimidate motorists into admitting guilt against the presumption of innocence.

7. The second problem with how the mainstream media carried misleading reports about Justice Bere’s Masvingo speech is that it was treated as a court judgment when it was only a statement of opinion which was not made in a properly constituted court. A binding judicial opinion can only be made in a court of law and nowhere else. In any event, and with all respect, it was wrong for Justice Bere to use and to indeed seemingly abuse his speech to incite public emotions over a matter that was not before him and one which can only be determined by a properly constituted court of law.

8. As if the mainstream media’s misleading account of Justice Bere’s Masvingo speech was not bad enough, on Tuesday the mainstream media and some internet lawyers such as Alex Magaisa falsely claimed that, contrary to ZRP assertions that Justice Bere’s comments in Masvingo were his personal opinion, there’s a 2012 High Court judgment by Justices Cheda and Kamocha, that allegedly outlaws ZRP spot fines.

9. But in fact there’s no such judgment on record.

10. The only ruling by Justices Cheda and Kamocha on record is Judgment HB No. HB157 in Case No. HCA 64/11. The case was not about the legality of ZRP spot fines but an appeal against sentence only. In its judgment the court confirmed the conviction of the appellant but set aside the sentence of 14 days that had been imposed by the lower court and substituted it with USD20.00/5 days imprisonment.

11. On page 3 paragraph 5 of the Judgment, Justice Cheda with the concurrence of Justice Kamocha, wrote that, “In my considered opinion the Police are empowered and authorised to impose a (spot) fine exceeding $200.00 depending on their Regulations”. This is in black and white.

12. Furthermore, Justice Cheda wrote on page 4 paragraph 5 of the Judgment that, “Therefore, it stands to reason that the Zimbabwe Republic Police has authority to assess (spot) fines if the said fines are in accordance with their regulations”. Nothing could be clearer! And this is a High Court Judgment in its own words. So what is the fuss about? Why are we continuing to get confused and confusing reports from the mainstream media and from clueless internet lawyers who have learnt nothing of value from their alleged 15 years of internet experience.

13. There’s now no doubt that Justice Bere seriously misdirected himself in light of the fact that there’s a very clear 2012 High Court judgment that specifically upheld and confirmed the legality of ZRP spot fines. Surely, it would be foolhardy for anyone to believe that a judgment of a court of law can be overturned through and by a speech.