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acts by the police illegal
lVote Muza,Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
July 08, 2004
lVote Muza is a legal
practitioner with Gutu & Chikowero, email firstname.lastname@example.org
In a democracy, the police forces’ key function is the preservation of
law and order.
This duty is important
because if carried out properly, it allows a proper functioning of the
state and permits unhindered enjoyment of freedom, equality and fraternity
Policing responsibility emanate from the constitution which is the supreme
law of the land.
Over the years, there has developed abundant evidence proving that the
Zimbabwe Republic Police has failed to discharge its constitutional duties
freely and fairly. Instead of being a professional, people-friendly force,
it has lately gained notoriety for being generally violence-prone, and
hostile to citizens whom it is supposed to protect.
Its reputation has been tainted and dented by the high incidence of bribery,
torture, malicious arrests and open bias when dealing with political matters.
Heavy-handedness and selective enforcement of the law are habits that
have encroached and taken root within the force.
This scenario is most unfortunate and unwelcome because it posses a great
danger not only to the rights of citizens, but to the very security of
the state which ironically the police is put in place to protect.
Every person in Zimbabwe is generally entitled to the right to liberty
and equal protection before the law. This right is fundamental and originates
from the Bill of Rights in our constitution.
However, this right as far as our police is concerned only appears to
exist on paper, essentially because the same police has repeatedly shown
gross contempt of people’s inalienable constitutional rights.
It is important to expose one way by which the police has consciously
violated peoples basic rights in open violation of the law.
The so-called "ticket" offences provides a better illustration of the
forces’ obsession with depriving citizens of their freedom.
These offences usually occur in traffic, liquor assault and other minor
transgressions covered under the Miscellaneous Offences Act (Chapter 9:15).
With specific reference to traffic offences, the common perception is
that issuing of tickets has been done, and is still being done more as
a fundraising exercise than a law enforcement one.
This only exposes the police’s hypocrisy and further confirms that certain
traffic blitz and other operations are not done in good faith.
Section 356 read together with Section 141 of the Criminal Procedure and
Evidence Act (Chapter 9:07) provides that an accused person may pay a
fine for certain minor offences if he/ she does not want to appear in
This section obviously makes payment of admission of guilt fines optional
and not mandatory.
The payment of a fine to an issuing officer is an unequivocal admission
of guilt. Infact it is equivalent to tendering a plea of guilty in an
An admission of guilt form, which is as noted commonly referred to by
legally lay persons as a "ticket" has a bold warning on its face. It advises
suspects not to deposit fines or sign the document if one is not admitting
to the offence. If one opts not to pay a fine, he must appear in court
on the date appearing on the face of the form to challenge the so-called
The danger the driving public faces is that, if they challenge the issuing
officer by refusing to pay a fine, they will be threatened with detention
or may even be detained.
Thus most individuals end up coughing up fines that they might at law
not be entitled to pay merely to avoid the inconvenience of incarceration.
The police now call these spontaneous deposit fines "spot fines".
However, this writer is not aware of any law that provides for "spot fines".
This unlawful procedure is an invention of the police that no one has
dared to challenge for fear of reprisals through the conman arbitrary
deprivation of liberty.
The habit of making offenders pay spot fines is highly malicious, a show
of heavy-handedness, a dangerous abuse of power and illegal. It appears
to be a well-orchestrated grand act of extortion.
It is important to observe that the habit of paying undeserved fines makes
one accumulate previous convictions.
The payment of an admission of guilt fine is by way of procedure forwarded
to a magistrate who confirms its propriety by affixing his signature to
the form. Once the form is so signed and confirmed, it becomes a conviction.
It is not only traffic matters that have invited this abuse of the public
by the police. The Miscellaneous Offences Act criminalises various nuisances
like laughing, singing and begging in a public place. Section 4 of the
same Act outlaws the loitering in public place for the purposes of prostitution
between the hours of 6pm and 6am.
It is interesting to note that if one loiters outside the prescribed time
limits, one will not be covered by the section. Consequently, a person
can loiter in a public place during the day for purposes of prostitution
without inviting the wrath of the law-enforcement agents.
While Section 4 might have been conceived for the right intentions, in
reality, especially as relates to general police conduct, it appears to
be a law made for the members of the female gender.
This is because when enforcing this provision the police have only targeted
females because generally only females are deemed to be prostitutes. The
males who sustain the commercial sex industry seen during odd hours are
What is even more baffling is the test used by police to identify and
distinguish a suspected prostitute from one who is not. Usually police
rely on attire alone, but this test is unfair and irrational because many
a time it has led to many innocent females being arrested, detained and
at times convicted unfairly.
This law is not only unreasonable and discriminatory against the fairer
sex but is clearly unconstitutional and contrary to the spirit of gender
equality existing in contemporary democracies.
It is in the public interest that it be repealed forthwith to avoid any
further violation of women’s constitutional rights.
Many women have been deprived their liberty and have had their right to
equal protection before the law violated by this superfluous and gender-insensitive
Although the police are empowered to release offenders for minor offences
on notice to appear in court, most members are unwilling to do so.
Because of an obsession to detain, perhaps instigated more by sadism and
cynicism, the police have turned a blind eye to respecting people’s freedoms.
It is high time our police re-examined itself and adopted a firm commitment
to respect and protection of human rights.
An undisciplined force without integrity that wantonly violates people’s
constitutional rights drives citizens to acts of vengeance, anarchy and
in the long-term alienates itself from the people it is supposed to serve.
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