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Court orders police to release vehicles seized over permanent reg plates

Mutare Magistrate Langton Mukwengi has ordered Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) to release a motorist’s vehicle which had been illegally impounded by some law enforcement agents for allegedly failing to display permanent registration number plates.

On 17 January 2022, police officers from Mutare Traffic Police Section at the specific instruction and authority of Rambisai Machuwaire, the Member-In-Charge at ZRP Mutare Central Traffic Section, seized a Honda Fit vehicle belonging to Reason Tichayeva Machengere at a checkpoint mounted along Sakubva road in Mutare, while he was coming from a funeral.

Before the vehicle was impounded, Machengere advised the traffic police officers that he had made the requisite payment to procure the permanent registration number plates for the vehicle from the Central Vehicle Registry but he was yet to receive them. However, the police officers could not entertain his explanation and instructed him to drive his vehicle to ZRP Mutare Main Camp, where it was parked.

This compelled Machengere to engage his lawyer Kevin Kabaya of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who filed an application at Mutare Magistrates Court seeking an order for the release of the motorist’s vehicle.

In the application, Kabaya, argued that the impounding of Machengere’s vehicle was illegal in that it did not comply with the requirements of Section 52(2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act as he was not issued with a full receipt as required by law.

The human rights lawyer stated that the failure by ZRP officers to comply with the mandatory requirements of Section 52(2) of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act entitles Machengere to demand the return of his vehicle.

He also argued that the continued seizure of Machengere’s vehicle in circumstances which are unlawful is a violation of his constitutional right to property enshrined in Section 71 of the Constitution.

Kabaya further stated that Machengere had on several occasions tried in vain to secure the release of his vehicle from Machuwaire but her subordinates had refused to release it despite having paid the requisite amount for the processing of the permanent registration number plates and with the seizure of the vehicle being illegal.

On 1 February 2022, Magistrate Mukwengi ordered Machuwaire to desist from seizing Machengere’s Honda Fit vehicle and release it forthwith into the motorist’s custody. Zim Morning Post

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