No joy for jailed council cops

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
THE High Court has thrown out a bail application by four Harare City Council traffic officers who were recently jailed 18 months each for criminal abuse of duty after they clamped and towed away a commuter omnibus in a bid to fix the kombi crew for causing the arrest of their colleague. The quartet — Pardon Chifadzwa, (26), Talent Mujere (25), Gerald Marwa (32) and Alpha Muzvidzwa (59) — had claimed that the vehicle was clamped for obstructing the free flow of traffic by parking at an undesignated point.

It was, however, established during trial that the driver was instead flagged down before the traffic officers threw spikes to immobilise the vehicle. It also emerged during trial that prior to impounding the vehicle, a driver from the same commuter omnibus company had caused the arrest of Kosam Ngoma, a council traffic officer. In violation of the city by-laws, the quartet clamped and impounded the vehicle without issuing out a ticket for the offence.

In terms of Statutory Instrument 104 of 2005 of the Harare (Clamping and Tow Away) By-Laws, no motor vehicle can be clamped or immobilised without a ticket being issued.

Mbare resident magistrate Ms Anita Tshuma found the quartet guilty of the offence and slapped them each with 24-month prison sentences before setting aside six months on condition that the four do not commit a similar offence within the next three years.

On Thursday High Court judge Justice Clement Phiri dismissed their bail application indicating that the four had no prospects of success on appeal.

After perusing the magistrates’ court record of proceedings, the judge was convinced that both conviction and sentence were proper and that there was no basis for the granting of bail pending appeal.

“I am satisfied that the conviction was a proper conviction. As regards the sentence, I am satisfied that the sentence of 24 months imprisonment of which six months were suspended on the usual conditions, is the kind of sentence that would not, in the circumstances, induce a sense of shock.

“Accordingly, the application for bail pending appeal is hereby dismissed,” ruled Justice Phiri.

Mrs Sharon Fero appeared for the State in the matter.

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 who demand bribes and, at times, unlawfully impounding vehicles to fix those who fail to comply.

The court heard during the trial that one of the four council traffic officers asked the driver, Sunnywell Kamudira: “Wakasungisirei mumwe wedu anonzi Ngoma? (Why did you cause the arrest of our colleague, Ngoma?)”

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 inconsistent and, in fact, corroborated the complainant’s claims that the officers were on a revenge mission.

Ms Tshuma said the offence committed was very prevalent and serious hence a custodial sentence was appropriate to curb such lawlessness.

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