Passengers Go to Court Over $2000 mushika-shika Fine
Harare commuters this week filed an urgent application against the mass arrest of passengers who are found using private vehicles for public transport. The urgent High Court application by the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum was made on behalf of its clients, the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ), Charles Nyoni and George Tsaurayi.
The President of the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe Tafadzwa Goliati told Harare News that the urgent application was against the actions of the Zimbabwe Republic Police who carried out a mass arrest of passengers who were caught using private vehicles to travel last week.
“Hundreds of travellers in Harare have been arrested and have each been fined RTGS$2000 for allegedly boarding transport that is not under ZUPCO. The Police have insisted that the boarding of unlicensed vehicles by passengers is illegal, but we hold that this is not the correct position of our law,” said Goliati.
A total of 260 commuters were arrested in Harare last week on Wednesday and Thursday following the introduction of the fine.
Those arrested were charged for contravening Section 7 (2) as read with 49 (2) of The Road Traffic (Traffic Signs and Signal) Regulations of 2016, which states, “Failure to obey any instructions or control imposed by any regulatory signs as specified under such sign in Class 1(a) (i) in the First Schedule eg, No hitchhiking, stop sign, be stopping, no overtaking, weight prohibition, no parking, no right/left turn.”
Speaking on the case, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum lawyer Darlington Marange, said, “Zimbabwean criminal law does not provide for an offence against a Passenger who boards a vehicle which is operating illegally”. Marange added that any irregularity with a vehicle as far as its authority to operate penalizes the vehicle operator, not the passenger.
“The Forum has noted that passengers were being fined under Road Traffic regulations that provide for hitchhiking. However, hitchhiking has very specific elements which are not being met by the cases of the passengers being arrested.
“The Forum holds that the actions of the Police are unlawful and therefore seek a declarator on behalf of its clients to the effect that the operation by the Zimbabwe Republic Police must stop,” said Marange.
These arrests are happening in the face of commuters across the country experiencing serious transport challenges in the City due to the shortage of ZUPCO buses, who are the only mandated transport operator since the start of lockdowns last year.
In an effort to deal with the transport crisis, ZUPCO this week partnered with the NRZ to introduce three rail services that will run from the city centre to Ruwa, Tynwald and Mufakose.