Wednesday, 10 February 2021

DEPOSIT FINES HIKE CHALLENGED IN COURT

A RETIRED lawyer, Sheila Frances Jarvis and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) have taken Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi to court over publication of Statutory Instrument (SI) 25 of 2021, which approved increases in deposit fines which police officers at roadblocks have already begun to implement.

Jarvis and ZimRights also cited Finance minister Mthuli Ncube, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe and the Parliament of Zimbabwe as respondents.

In a chamber application filed at the High Court, Jarvis and ZimRights are seeking an interdict and declaratory relief in terms of order 32, rule 241 as read with section 85 of Constitution.

SI 25 of 2021, which was gazetted on January 25, published the fine increases.

Jarvis, through her lawyer Tonderai Bhatasara, said: “The standard scale of fines for levels four to 14 was doubled from the amounts specified for these levels in the preceding standard scale of fines, but was increased many-fold for levels one to three.

“Level one increased from $200 to $1 000, level two went up from $300 to $2 000 and level three was massively made 10 times what it had been, up from $500 to $5 000. Increases had been gazetted twice in 2020, as prescribed by section 141 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act [Chapter 9:23]. Granting the police power to levy fines instead of referring a case to court applies only to levels one, two, and three — the three levels which are most severely affected by SI 25 of 2021.”

They said police at roadblocks were not always satisfied with documentation produced by travellers and they demanded payment of spot fines instead.

“Consequently, the average citizen like me must pay in cash or risk arrest. Police have been ordered not to take any United States dollars or EcoCash or similar payment. Zimbabwean (dollar) notes are scarce. Even when a bank has these, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe limits it to issuing us with just $1 000 in cash each week,” she said.

Jarvis said SI 25 of 2021 was not issued in accordance with the law, hence it must be declared a legal nullity.

ZimRights executive director Dzikamai Bere also said since SI 25 of 2021 was not made in accordance with the law, it is a legal nullity, and violates section 56 of the Constitution. Newsday

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