Stone broke govt hikes road fines
By Ndakaziva Majaka
Long-suffering motorists should brace themselves for yet another steep hike in the cost of driving, with the country’s broke government giving notice on Thursday that road traffic fines will rise significantly from early next year as desperate authorities look for revenue from all possible sources.
Presenting his 2017 national budget, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the current standard fines, which were last reviewed in February 2009 when the country migrated to the use of multi currencies, would be increased by up to 100 percent with effect from January 1.
“It is, therefore, proposed to increase the standard scale of fines of level one to three, with effect from January 1 2017, as follows: Level One fines will go up to $10 from $5, Level Two offenses will attract a $15 fine from the current $10, while Level Three offenses will attract a $30 penalty, up from the current $20,” he said.
The lawyer-turned treasury chief said one of the motivations for the hike was that the present penalty structure had been found to be ineffective, given the rising road fatalities that are largely attributed to the failure by motorists to observe road rules.
“Whereas the fines are supposed to be a deterrent, this, however, is not being achieved due to the low level of some of the fines. Most of the carnage that is witnessed on the country’s roads are a result of human error arising from failure to observe road traffic regulations,” Chinamasa said.
However, motorists say police have turned the country’s roads into their “feeding troughs” as corruption among traffic cops has seemingly got worse with each passing year, and as the country’s economic rot has worsened.
Level One offenses involve driving a vehicle without windscreen wipers or driving without either head or side lights. Cutting corners when turning right and failure to signal when slowing down, stopping or turning are classified as Level Two offenses.
Proceeding against a red traffic light (robot), overtaking over solid lines and a non-functional foot brakes are classified as Level Three offenses.
But as steep as the proposed 2017 traffic fines are, they come nowhere near what Chinamasa had initially proposed in his 2016 budget. Then, he was looking for an upward review of traffic fines for motorists who proceeded against red traffic lights, overtook over a solid white line, drove without a licence or operated faulty vehicles to be fined $100 for each such offence.
However, legal practitioners successfully argued that traffic cops had no right to fine motorists such heavy fines as these had not been gazetted.
Experts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said the new proposed fines would also have to be gazetted first, before they could come into force.
Last month, Home Affairs minister Ignatius Chombo, Commissioner General of Police Augustine Chihuri and Attorney-General Prince Machaya, also unanimously conceded that it was unconstitutional for traffic cops to detain and demand the payment of spot fines from motorists at roadblocks.
The trio made the concessions in response to a High Court application that had been filed by Harare motorist Andrew Makunura, who was last year allegedly ordered to pay a spot fine for not having a radio listener’s licence. Daily News