Mutare Magistrate Lazarus Murendo on Tuesday 10 November 2020 ordered City of Mutare to release a vehicle which the local authority had clamped and impounded after a motorist had allegedly failed to pay a fine amounting to US$20 for a parking disc.
City of Mutare municipal police officers on Monday 9 November 2020 clamped and impounded a Nissan Hardbody vehicle belonging to Joseph Munorweyi Perekwa, who had parked his vehicle during a brief stop-over in the eastern border city while travelling from Harare to Chipinge.
In court, Perekwa, who was represented by Moses Chikomo of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, told Magistrate Murendo that his vehicle was clamped by City of Mutare municipal police officers, whom he had earlier on asked if the place where he had parked his vehicle was a pre-paid parking area to which they all confirmed it was.
After realising that he had parked his vehicle at a pre-paid parking area, Perekwa decided to go and buy a pre-paid parking disc on the other side of the road. Upon returning to the pre-paid parking area, Perekwa realised that his vehicle was being clamped.
He said efforts to persuade them to stop clamping his vehicle proved to be futile as they continued with their actions and issued him with a ticket amounting to US$20, which he was supposed to pay before the release of his vehicle.
When he tried questioning the municipal police officers for their actions, Perekwa was referred to their immediate Supervisor who asked him to drive to the local authority’s offices at Civic Centre so that the matter could be resolved amicably.
However, Perekwa was shocked when upon arrival at Civic Centre, the so-called Supervisor informed him that his vehicle had been impounded and could only be released from the local authority’s premises upon producing proof of payment of US$20 for the ticket which municipal police officers had issued earlier on.
In court, Perekwa’s lawyer argued that the purported impounding of his vehicle was unlawful and could not be justified in anyway. Chikomo said the actions by City of Mutare municipal police officers were grossly unreasonable considering that Perekwa had enquired from them about the whereabouts of vendors selling the parking discs.
Chikomo argued that Perekwa had not been given the right to be heard by the local authority and City of Mutare had taken the law into its own hands and its conduct cannot be justified in a democratic society and hence needs to be censored. Chikomo charged that the conduct of City of Mutare municipal police officers who impounded Perekwa’s vehicle had greatly inconvenienced him.
The human rights lawyer said ZLHR had intervened in representing Perekwa to challenge the administrative conduct of City of Mutare municipal officers which was unreasonable and inappropriate.
In response to Perekwa’s application, Magistrate Murendo ordered City of Mutare to restore possession of the Nissan Hardbody vehicle to Perekwa and also ordered the Officer in Charge at Mutare Central Police Station to arrest anyone who resists the enforcement of the court order.
Apart from City of Mutare, most local authorities around the country have been impounding vehicles over alleged parking offences and the manner in which the process is executed has been challenged in local courts including at the Constitutional Court.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)