The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) have been accused of dubious and even illegal behaviour in their partnership to collect ZBC license fees from motorists.
Harare News received a letter from a reader complaining about mistreatment at one of the now very common ZRP/ZBC roadblocks. She stated that she had been stopped by a man – identified only as Sam as he refused to give his surname – and instructed to pay $30 for her license plus an additional $50 as a fine. She was told to phone a friend to bring the cash or to go to her bank to collect the money. She went to purchase a license at Newlands Post Office and returned to the roadblock. She then saw Sam getting into an unmarked pickup and proceeding to 27 Fleetwood Road. When she confronted him he said that he was only collecting money for a commission.
It seems that Sam was neither ZRP nor ZBC personnel but rather an agent outsourced to collect fines for a commission. Further investigation by Harare News found that 27 Fleetwood Road is occupied by two private companies with no apparent relationship to either ZRP or ZBC.
In an email response to Harare News on the subject, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said, “There have been a number of cases which have involved fraud charges on these so-called license inspectors. Some of them have been brought in by the ZBC themselves…It’s times like these where one must insist that the police or ZBC inspector provide details of their rank, name and force number… Two inspectors were recently judged to have fraudulently issued ZBC licenses and pocketed large amounts of the money they received.” ZLHR added that even though Sam might have been a ZBC official, “the demand for a $50 spot fine far exceeded Sam’s authority.”
In addition, they explain that even the ZRP is unable to impose spot fines above $20, saying, “Fines higher than level 3 can only be imposed by a magistrate after a court appearance. The police may not insist on the payment of a spot fine where the road user is not in a position to do so immediately, or where the offense is being contested.”
The constitutionality of ZBC licenses has been called into question by Member of Parliament for Harare West, Jessie Majome. She challenged the right of the ZBC to compel Zimbabweans to pay license fees in the Constitutional Court in 2014. Majome argued that the partisan nature of the state broadcaster, which she believes represents only a small portion of Zimbabweans, violates Section 61 of the Constitution: Freedom of Information and the Media, and that ZBC have forfeited the right to receiving mandatory license fees from all citizens. Despite frequent promises for results, she has been waiting to receive the judgment since 12 November 2014.
Speaking to Harare News Majome said, “They (the Court) are buying time to allow ZBC to collect as much revenue as possible. Also, if they have issued a correct judgment it will upset a lot of power dynamics. But it is not acceptable to delay the issuing of a judgment by two years. This ties into the political abuse of the ZBC, and the courts themselves.”
Asked about the deployment of police to ZBC roadblocks, Majome said, “…I do not think it is the best deployment of a stretched police force to chase after ZBC licences and neglect other duties such as investigation of crimes and traffic control.”
Majome has boycotted ZBC license fees for two years. “At a roadblock, people must not hand over their driver’s licenses, and must insist on a ticket to take away and pay later. They (the authorities) are too lazy and disorganised to follow up,” she said, though she admits that this can cause difficulty at times.
Harare Residents’ Trust (HRT) explained that the police are present at roadblocks first and foremost to monitor the ZBC. “Whenever ZBC is collecting money for licenses there should be a police officer to monitor the process and ensure that no bribes are taken. Residents should learn to speak out boldly if their rights are violated. They should report their cases to the relevant offices before they are forced to pay bribes by people taking advantage of their lack of knowledge.”
The ZRP has not responded to a request for clarification of the issues raised above.