By Daniel Nemukuyu
The Harare City Council has been slapped with a $22 200 lawsuit for unlawfully clamping a commuter omnibus after the driver refused to pay a bribe to a city traffic officer.
The traffic officer, Kosamu Ngoma, has since been ordered by a Harare magistrate to perform 420 hours of community service for criminal abuse of duty as a public officer.
Ngoma, the court heard, corruptly solicited a bribe from a kombi driver, who refused to comply. Ngoma then framed charges to fix the driver before impounding the vehicle.
Passing sentence, provincial magistrate Mr Elijah Makomo ordered the release of the Toyota Quantum belonging businessman Mr Patrick Chiremba, which was held at the city council yard.
While Mr Chiremba was trying to recover his kombi from the council holding yard, another traffic officer, Inspector John Mapfumo, allegedly defied the court order and refused to release the vehicle.
Mapfumo has since been arrested and is facing contempt of court charges at the Harare Magistrates’ Court.
While the criminal case against Mapfumo was pending, Mr Chiremba on Friday issued summons at the High Court claiming $22 200 as damages for loss of business.
Mr Chiremba claims his bus, which plies the Harare-Marondera route, cashes in an average of $200 daily and he is claiming $22 200 for the 28 days the bus spent parked in the council yard.
“As a result of the conduct of the defendants in the unlawful, wrongful and malicious arrest and seizure of the plaintiff’s commercial vehicle, the plaintiff suffered patrimonial loss in the form of daily revenue in operating the vehicle as aforesaid.
“The vehicle cashes a daily average rate of $200 and for a period of 28 days, the vehicle grosses to $22 200.”
Ngoma demanded “lunch money” from a kombi driver, Mr Mike Matambo, who refused to give him.
Bitter at the non-payment of the bribe, Ngoma vowed to fix the kombi crew and framed charges against them before impounding their vehicle.
The court found Ngoma guilty of the offence which it said bordered on corruption, and slapped him with 420 hours of community service. Ngoma was ordered to perform community service at Warren Park Polyclinic in Harare.
Pronouncing the sentence, Mr Makomo said such offences by traffic officials were on the increase and there was need to impose deterrent sentences.
“These offences involving council officers are on the rise with the courts being inundated by such cases, especially those from the traffic branch.
“The sentences of the courts must therefore reflect the seriousness of the offence,” said Mr Makomo.
Facts are that in June this year, Ngoma demanded a bribe from Matambo at Simon Muzenda (Fourth Street) bus terminus.
He threatened to bar Matambo from operating in the city if he did not pay.
He said Matambo should pay him money for lunch to avoid the harsh punishment.
The court heard that Matambo protested why he was being arrested when he was in a designated bus terminus. Ngoma told him it was because he had refused to buy him food.
Ngoma is said to have told Matambo that as long as he was a municipal cop, his commuter omnibus would not operate in the city. The Herald