THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is facing a litany of litigation from vehicle owners across the country following a blitz which saw law enforcement agents impounding vehicles without number plates and licence discs as part of efforts to deal with the recent spike in armed robberies.
The blitz had netted 13 982 motorists as of Monday this week.
Police believe the recent increase in armed robberies and theft were a result of unregistered vehicles which were used as getaway cars.
As the ZRP is netting more vehicles, some motorists have opened civil cases against the law enforcement agents demanding their cars while some are demanding payment for damages on their vehicles during the time they were impounded.
In one case, Tazorora Takunda Goto Musarurwa a lawyer and lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) last week filed an urgent chamber application at the Harare High Court citing police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, police officer commanding Traffic Harare Central and the City of Harare.
Represented by Advocate Benjamin Magogo, Musarurwa demanded the return of his car which was impounded by the police.
“Applicant is the owner of a Mazda CX-5 motor vehicle and has been in possession of the vehicle at all relevant times. The motor vehicle was duly imported into Zimbabwe but has not yet completed all registration formalities.
“On January 15, 2022 a statement was issued by Chief Superintendent Blessmore Chishaka on behalf of the first respondent (Matanga) where it was stated that all plate-less, unregistered and unlicenced vehicles will be impounded and cases referred to court for prosecution. The statement further said the operation is being conducted in order to account for the criminals who are committing crimes using these vehicles,” Musarurwa submitted.
“On January 19, 2022 the applicant’s motor vehicle was impounded by the police officers acting under the instruction of the first respondent. No legal basis has been provided for such impounding other than the directive given by the first respondent. The applicant has not been charged with any criminal offence and has only been told to obtain number plates in order to have his vehicle returned to him.”
He further alleged that the vehicle was taken to a compound owned by the second respondent (Officer in Charge Harare Central) and is currently under the custody of the latter accruing storage charges of US$30 per day.
“On December 20, 2021, I entered into an agreement of sale with Ishmael Munjozi where I purchased a Mazda CX-5. The vehicle was imported into Zimbabwe on November 11, 2021 and has temporary number plates indicating that the validity of the number plate is indefinite. These number plates are in the vehicle,” Musarurwa submitted in his founding affidavit.
He noted that after purchasing the car, he then enquired with the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR) about the availability of number plates but was informed of their unavailability.
“With this understanding I moved around with the vehicle and even went to Hwange during the festive period without facing any challenge,” he submitted.
Musarurwa was arrested on January 19, 2022 despite showing the ZRP officers temporary plates and car documentation. The officers argued that they had strict instructions to impound all cars without number plates.
His vehicle was impounded but no documentation was given to him to confirm the booking of the car as well as accounting of the contents of the car.
Musarurwa further submitted that the booking officer on duty notified him that there was no parking space and the vehicle had to be parked in the officer-in-charge’s parking facility where the vehicle was supposed to pay US$30 per day.
“On January 18, 2022 Minister [of Transport and Infrastructure Development] Felix Mhona posted on twitter saying he was concerned that some motorists who applied for number plates last year are yet to receive them. On the same day he bemoaned the corruption at CVR and announced the replacement of the previous director with the new director. The number plates are still not available. I have also visited the CVR offices and there is chaos.
“I have preferred hiring agents to obtain the number plates for me as I do not feel comfortable joining an extremely rowdy crowd in order to obtain vehicle registration. It is however not clear when these number plates will be issued as there remains a huge backlog,” Musarurwa submitted.
Musarurwa is therefore demanding the return of his vehicle upon the service of the court order by the sheriff and for the respondents to meet the cost of the suit.
The respondents are yet to file opposition papers on the matter.
The outcry by motorists comes in the backdrop of the Treasury having reportedly released US$2, 1 million for the procurement of number plates. Mhona also assured the nation of adequate stocks of number plates.
But the issue seems to be unresolved as many motorists struggle to access number plates.