Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
Corruptly impounding a commuter omnibus as a way of fixing the crew for causing the arrest of a municipal officer backfired on four Harare City Council traffic officers when a city magistrate slapped them with 18 months imprisonment for criminal abuse of office. Mbare resident magistrate Ms Anita Tshuma locked up the quartet — Pardon Chifanza (26), Talent Mujere (25), Gerald Marwa (32) and Alpha Muzvidzwa (59) — after finding them guilty of the offence that bordered on corruption.
Prior to the impounding of the vehicle, a driver with the commuter omnibus company in question, had caused the arrest of Kosam Ngoma, a council traffic officer, and his colleagues went on to the streets to hunt down the vehicle on a revenge mission.
The quartet, in typical mafia-style, threw spikes on the vehicle before towing it away without issuing any traffic ticket or informing the crew of the offence.
In terms of Statutory Instrument 104 of 2005 of the Harare (Clamping and Town Away) By-Laws, 2005, no motor vehicle can be clamped or immobilised without a ticket being issued.
The vehicle was towed to Harare Central Stores where it was detained.
The court heard during the trial that one of the four shouted at the driver, Mr Sunnywell Kamudira, that “wakasungisirei mumwe wedu anonzi Ngoma?” (Why did you cause the arrest of our colleague called Ngoma?).
The jailing of the four came at a time the motoring public was crying foul over abuse of authority by some overzealous city traffic officers, some who were demanding bribes and, at times, unlawfully impounding vehicles to fix those who fail to comply with their monetary demands.
When the case was reported to the police, the four sought cover under unsatisfactory claims that the vehicle was obstructing the free flow of traffic in the city. However, Ms Tshuma established that the defence raised by the four was fraught with inconsistencies and in fact corroborated the complainant’s claims that the officers were on a revenge mis- sion.
“However, from their evidence, the accused persons failed to show that the vehicle in question was obstructing the smooth flow of traffic. “It is clear that the accused persons, who are members of the municipal police, had targeted this commuter omnibus.
“In any event, it is quite clear that if there was any obstruction, they (the four) are the ones who caused it when they placed a spike in front of the complainant’s vehicle,” ruled the magis- trate.
Ms Tshuma said the offence committed was very prevalent and serious hence a custodial sentence was appropriate to curb such lawlessness. “The court is of the view that a custodial sentence is appropriate under the circumstances as it will send a clear message to the society and would-be offenders that the courts do not condone such behaviour,” said Ms Tshuma.
Facts are that on July 9 last year in the morning, Mr Kamudira was driving the kombi (ADC 6624) along Samora Machel Avenue on his way to the Harare Magistrates’ Courts for a court case involving another traffic officer and he stopped at a traffic light.
Three police officers went to the driver’s side and told him that he was not supposed to drive in the central business district. One of the officers questioned the crew why they caused the arrest of their colleague and demanded that they withdraw the case.
Mujere and Marwa pulled Mr Kamudira off the driver’s seat, manhandling him before assaulting him. Within 15 minutes a council towing vehicle arrived and towed the kombi away without issuing a traffic ticket.