Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa has castigated the police for their habit of smashing car windscreens while enforcing traffic laws, saying this was tantamount to harassment.
Chinamasa made the remarks in the Senate on Thursday while responding to a question from Mzilikazi Senator Matson Hlalo, who wanted to know if the practice was legal. Hlalo also asked if spot fines were legal.
“Clearly, there is no one with authority to harass anybody and it is unlawful to smash vehicle windscreens, it is intimidation,” Chinamasa said.
“Whether you are a Member of Parliament or whoever, no one has a right to harass people or a right to break other people’s property and so if there are instances where any police officers have broken or damaged any person’s property, those who are affected are entitled to take the matter to a civil court or sue the police for damages.”
Police have defended their actions saying most of the time they would be dealing with unruly commuter omnibus drivers.
Police spokesperson Chief Inspector James Sabau recently told a Joint Monitoring and Implementing Committee meeting that police had no option except to smash windscreens because the drivers would be endangering the lives of other road users.
“Commuter omnibus drivers resist arrest and if we go to their owners they refer us back to the drivers and the conductors,” he said.
“Smashing windscreens, although illegal, will be the best to do under the circumstances.”
However, Chinamasa said spot fines were legal as they were were an admission of guilt.
“If you have no money, you can insist that you pay at the nearest police station,” he said.
“Only police officers must levy those fines and they are entitled to impose or to demand spot fines up to level three – and I am not sure exactly, I think it is $20.”
Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara early this year told Parliament that spot fines would be scrapped because they were illegal.