City of Harare has capitulated and released a motorist’s vehicle which the local authority had illegally impounded on charges of violating municipal traffic laws.
On 9 June 2022, City of Harare municipal police officers accompanied by some Zimbabwe Republic Police officers blocked a Harare motorist Tinashe Shamuyashe’s Land Cruiser vehicle after he had stopped in the central business district to allow a passenger to disembark from his vehicle, charging that he had blocked other vehicles as he had stopped on the road.
After the incident, Shamuyashe drove his vehicle to City of Harare’s Municipal Depot along Coventry road after some municipal police officers ordered him to accompany them and proceeded to issue him with a ticket totalling US$229 for committing a traffic offence which reflected that the prescribed penalty for obstruction of vehicles was
US$50, tow-away fees of US$100, a storage fee of US$50 and value added tax amounting to US$29.
Upon questioning why he was being charged a tow-away fee when his vehicle was never towed away and a storage fee when his vehicle was never kept in storage, Shamuyashe did not receive a plausible response and instead he was referred to City of Harare’s Traffic Enforcement Offices at Trafalgar Court to make payment and was told that he could only get his vehicle from the storage facility at Coventry road until he pays the stipulated fines.
This compelled Shamuyashe to engage Paidamoyo Saurombe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who wrote a letter of complaint to City of Harare protesting against the levying of fines for services that the local authority had not provided and for unlawfully seizing his vehicle.
However, City of Harare ignored Shamuyashe’s letter and kept on holding his vehicle.
In response, Saurombe on Monday 13 June 2022 filed an urgent chamber application at Harare High Court seeking an order to compel the local authority to release Shamuyashe’s vehicle.
In the application, Saurombe argued that City of Harare’s conduct of charging for towing fees and storage fees, where those services have not been offered, was unlawful and that there is no law which provides for the deprivation of Shamuyashe’s property in the manner City of Harare had deprived him and that the Constitution protects him from unlawful deprivation.
The human rights lawyer contended that Shamuyashe was being inconvenienced together with his family from relying on the vehicle for their daily usage and this had forced them to use public transport.
The deprivation of the usage of his vehicle, Saurombe argued, was an infraction of Shamuyashe’s constitutional right to property enshrined in Section 71 of the Constitution.
On Thursday 16 June 2022, on the eve of the hearing and determination of the urgent application by High Court Judge Justice Neville Wamambo, officials from City of Harare capitulated and asked Shamuyashe to collect his vehicle and thereby ending the illegality.