City Of Harare’s New ‘Extortionist’ Traffic Fines Trigger Uproar

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By Alois Vinga

THE City of Harare nicodemously introduced new hefty United States Dollar-based fines for traffic offenders on Friday which have left motorists riled.

Residents suddenly woke up to the new fines Friday pegged at US$229.

Motorists who spoke to at the weekend said the new penalties are an exorbitant fund-raising mechanism by the city and never a genuine move to enforce by-laws.

“It is just becoming questionable. A municipal police officer can just slap you with a fine in foreign currency at his discretion. There is no room to justify yourself or any appeal mechanism as the officers’ observations are deemed final,” one motorist caught on the wrong side of the law as he drove along Jason Moyo Avenue said.

He identified himself as Patrck Masawi.

Other motorists questioned the rationale of demanding payment of fines in US$ despite the fact that it is not the sole legal currency in the country.

“Times are just tough for us as motorists because these officers hold us at ransom as they give us an option to either pay between US$10 or US$20 kickbacks or face the penalty of at least US$100 fine or getting the vehicle impounded,” said one Tinashe Choto who plies the City – Avondale Mushikashika route.

Riled by the errant conduct of the city authority, one motorist (name withheld) also took it to Twitter last Saturday and bared his soul after being slapped with a US$229 fine on allegation of blocking traffic.

“This is how the Harare City Council is reaping off motorists. Today, I pulled out of a parking bay in town and I was charged for blocking traffic,” the motorist said.

Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) programs officer, Reuben Akili also expressed dismay over the unjustified manner in which the local authority has now resorted to “extortive fundraising” activities on the back of serious administrative disaster.

“What is important is to note that the local authority’s financial standing is in the red and this has forced them to resort to such machinations in a bid to raise funds. Deliberately, they are neglecting to carry out their responsibility of ensuring clear traffic markings, and in turn, they take advantage of that by slapping motorists with fines,” he said.

Akili said the huge amounts and the currency preferred in charging the fines are clear testimony that the authorities are out to make a killing.

“Our analysis shows that a sizable proportion of the City’s budget is funded through fines which is just wrong. Over the past years, revenues from Property Tax and Land sales have been declining and this has left the authorities with no choice except to steal from citizens,” he said.

Efforts to get a comment from the HCC spokesperson, Michael Chideme were fruitless as his mobile phone went unanswered.