Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) officers recently released a vehicle belonging to Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), which it had impounded for allegedly failing to display permanent registration number plates.
The ZimRights Toyota Hiace vehicle, was impounded on Tuesday 25 January 2022 at a checkpoint manned by ZRP officers at the Mabvuku turn off road along the Harare-Mutare highway during an operation commenced by ZRP officers in January 2022 targeting “plateless, unregistered and unlicensed vehicles.”
At the Mabvuku checkpoint, ZimRights officials were told by a police officer only identified as Maponga that they were under arrest for travelling with a vehicle without permanent registration number plates. The ZimRights officials explained to Maponga that they paid for the number plates and had made all the necessary payments to ensure issuance of the number plates but the Central Vehicle Registry Department was advising them that there were no permanent registration
number plates. The ZimRights officials showed Maponga the requisite proofs of payment and the Customs Clearance Certificates and were also displaying their temporary registration number plates on their vehicle.
They told him that in the past one week, they made numerous attendances in a bid to collect their permanent registration number plates but they were being advised that there are no number plates
contrary to the statements issued by the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development in the media.
Maponga remained adamant and insisted that police officers were on an operation targeting vehicles without permanent registration number plates and proceeded to impound the ZimRights vehicle and lodged it at Mabvuku Police Station.
However, the Officer in Charge at Mabvuku Police Station, released the ZimRights vehicle on 25 January 2022 after the human rights organisation’s lawyers Idirashe Chikomba and Tinashe Chinopfukutwa of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights intervened and protested against the
impounding of the vehicle saying the law enforcement agents’ actions were unlawful.
In a letter written to the Officer In Charge of Mabvuku Police Station, Chikomba and Chinopfukutwa argued that according to Section 6 of the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act, in terms of which ZRP purported to be conducting the operation to impound vehicles, police officers are not empowered to impound motorists’ vehicles hence they cannot grant to themselves powers which they are not vested with at law.
The human rights lawyers argued that in terms of Section 21 of the Vehicle Registration and Licensing Act, a vehicle is deemed to have been duly registered and licensed if a temporary identification card is affixed on it on the prescribed position. They stated that ZimRights and its employees are entitled to freedom of movement which is provided in terms of section 66 of the Constitution.
Chikomba and Chinopfukutwa also told The Officer In Charge at Mabvuku Police Station that it is grossly unreasonable for ZRP officers to impound their client’s vehicle when ZimRights is failing to get the permanent number plates through no fault of its own but through inefficiencies at the Central Vehicle Registry.
The human rights lawyers demanded that ZRP should within 24 hours direct the relevant police officers to release their client’s vehicle without any storage charges and warned that should the law enforcement agents fail to release their client’s vehicle they would immediately approach the High Court seeking an order for the release of the vehicle on an urgent basis. They also told the Officer In Charge at Mabvuku Police Station that ZRP will bear the costs of the urgent chamber application and will be sued together with the concerned police officers for damages incurred by ZimRights in hiring another vehicle for use while its vehicle remains impounded.
Besides writing to the Officer In Charge of Mabvuku Police Station, Chikomba and Chinopfukutwa also wrote to Hon. Felix Mhona, the Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development demanding that he within 24 hours direct the relevant officers at Central Vehicle Registry to issue ZimRights with the permanent registration number plates for its vehicle failure of which they would proceed to approach the High Court for an order compelling him to do so.
As a result, the Officer In Charge of Mabvuku Police Station eventually released the impounded vehicle on 25 January 2022 while the Central Vehicle Registry on 27 January 2022 gave ZimRights its permanent registration number plates.