guest column:Learnmore Zuze
In any other jurisdiction, the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR)director-general should by now have long been relieved of their duties. The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development whose ambit the CVR falls cannot itself be spared in any lawsuit pertaining to the ludicrous incompetence exhibited in the registration of vehicles in Zimbabwe.
The level of ineptitude evinced by the failure to provide registration plates for hundreds of vehicles roaming the country for months on end is not only legendary, but makes the department a reluctant accomplice to the numerous unmarked car crimes that have taken root in the country. It is the constitutional duty of a government to protect its citizens. The citizenry must feel secure under the wings of a government but what is obtaining in Zimbabwe befuddles logic. The level of negligence displayed is inexplicable, indefensible and unfathomable.
The CVR is a department created in terms of the Vehicle Licensing Act. No matter the justification given, the management at the registry has patently displayed that it is out of sorts, and has no clue.
Vehicle registration plates are a top national security issue which should not be tampered with as is going on. The CVR must never be allowed to be comfortable with the status quo.
A lawsuit against the ministry responsible is surely foreseeable. It further benumbs the mind whether this institution has no information department to at least raise awareness on what truly goes on there and why the citizenry is being put at risk by this poor administration. The ministry in charge is a respondent in the matter as it is also failing to rein in the CVR management.
The responsible ministry must not wait for legal action against this inept system and it must be made abundantly clear that the legal provision against this national embarrassment exists. There should be legal relief for Zimbabweans.
It is unparalleled that the vehicle registry of a nation fails in its constitutional mandate to provide such a basic service for months on end and life continues as usual. In the entire hullabaloo, any legal mind knows that CVR is, whether directly or indirectly, benefiting criminals whose operations become overt under the cover of its failure. A previous survey by Harare Polytechnic students revealed that four in every 10 vehicles in the CBD of Harare are unmarked and this creates fertile ground for crimes. It is a shame and earns Zimbabwe public opprobrium as a country that has failed to issue out registration plates for whatever reasons they would like to proffer; it’s unforgivable. The truth of the matter is that by its failure to provide registration plates, CVR officials have no business at all occupying such offices and must allow for capable minds.
More worrisome now is the fact that the CVR establishment has itself become so comfortable with this embarrassment. In law there is a Latin term res ipsa loquitur which means the “thing speaks for itself.”
The principle has normal usage in a road accident where there are no sufficient facts to secure a conviction and the law relies on the concept to prove negligence.
It speaks for itself that the department has failed altogether. It is indeed time that the CVR has legal relief sought against its direct or indirect dereliction of duty in its failure to provide number plates to motorists. No vehicle should see a day on the streets without registration plates. The State at large can be a respondent in the matter as the buk ultimately stops with it.
Early this month, the media reported that the shortage of vehicle registration plates had triggered massive corruption implicating top CVR officials. It is patently clear that this scarcity has become a cash cow for the corruption-infested institution and the officials are indeed comfortable with the demeaning situation.
We have heard and continue to hear the old same tired song of lack of foreign currency to import the material from Germany, but this is no defence at law should a lawsuit come any time soon. It rings true that the reported artificially created shortage is good for their pockets while the nation suffers.
What is happening in Zimbabwe makes the work of the police almost impossible. A signature of most organised robbery crime syndicates is use of unmarked vehicles. There is nothing more dangerous than a vehicle that cannot be identified by a number.
What should kick the government to action are the consequences of allowing hundreds of cars to roam freely without number plates. Just like anywhere else, there are genuine cases of law-abiding citizens who are yet to receive number plates from the CVR, but again it has opened floodgates to outright thieves whose work has been smoothened by this high degree maladministration.
It is even more astounding that the nation has not been fully furnished with information as to why the lives of people continue to be placed at risk by this administrative abortion. We have not heard anyone being summoned before Parliament to answer to this embarrassing goof in a modern nation.
Learnmore Zuze is a legal officer. He writes in his personal capacity.