Lovemore Meya Herald Correspondent
It is illegal for police officers to confiscate driver’s licences from motorists and those whose documents are seized must report to their nearest police station.
Police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said this in the wake of a surge in complaints by motorists who claim to have lost their driver’s licences in this way.
Police officers manning roadblocks usually ask for driver’s licences before inspecting the vehicle.
They will not release the driver’s licence until the motorist pays a spot fine when an offence is discovered.
“Police officers should not confiscate driver’s licences and those who have their licences taken should report to the officers-in-charge at police stations, officer commanding district, and province or at our head office,” said Snr Asst Comm Charamba.
“The driver’s licence is owned by that person. One should only pay a spot fine. An amount of $20 is allowed to be paid to the police officers.”
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said motorists were also encouraged to call police complaints number (04) 703 631 to register their concerns.
Motorists are worried that most police officers at roadblocks operate without identification, making it difficult to locate them in pursuant of their confiscated driver’s licences.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said efforts were being made to ensure that police officers possessed the identification documents.
“People should note the place of the roadblock and time of occurrence and if they provide us with that information, we always know who would be responsible,” she said.
“Police are under-funded. As a result, not all of the officers have identification cards, but the ideal situation is that they should have one. The programme is being rolled out in all places for all police officers to have identification.”
“We would like to urge all those drivers who lost their licences to come and report at the national police general headquarters and our regional offices.”
Some motorists complained that they lost valuable time and money trying to locate the officers who would have taken their licences.
Harare lawyer Mr Jonathan Samkange said there was no basis for police officers to confiscate driver’s licences.
“Police officers have no basis for confiscating licences since there are two procedures followed when one commits an offence,” said Mr Samkange.
“They should issue a notice for one to appear in court or the offender provides their particulars. There are various offences like reckless driving, negligent driving, that warrant a notice for one to appear in court, while other offences require one to report at the police station, like proceeding through a red robot.”
Mr Samkange added: “My licence is my property and it is unlawful for anyone to take it. It is unconstitutional and the new Constitution prohibits any person from punishing anyone except the courts.”
Mr Samkange said by taking one’s driver’s licence, a police officer would be contravening the motorist’s freedom of movement.
Another lawyer Mr James Makiya said: “If a person is arrested for not having a driver’s licence, they should be given time to produce it within seven days.
“Police officers do not have the powers to impound the vehicle and the same applies for driver’s licences. They should target faults and issue tickets which are supposed to be paid within seven days.”