The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is being sued by vehicle owners across the country whose cars were impounded by law enforcement agents.
On 15 January 2022, ZRP launched an operation targetting vehicles without number plates and licence discs and thousands of vehicles have been seized since then.
The police said the recent increase in armed robberies, theft, rapes and kidnappings, among other vices, were a result of unregistered vehicles which were used as getaway cars.
However, some motorists have opened civil cases against ZRP demanding their cars and payment for damages on their vehicles during the time they were impounded.
One such motorist is Tazorora Takunda Goto Musarurwa, a lawyer and lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).
Last week, Musarurwa filed an urgent chamber application at the Harare High Court citing police Commissioner-General Godwin Matanga, police officer commanding Traffic Harare Central and the City of Harare.
Musarurwa, through his lawyer, Advocate Benjamin Magogo, has demanded the return of his car which was impounded by the police. He said:
Applicant is the owner of a Mazda CX-5 motor vehicle and has been in possession of the vehicle at all relevant times.
The motor vehicle was duly imported into Zimbabwe but has not yet completed all registration formalities.
On January 15, 2022, a statement was issued by Chief Superintendent Blessmore Chishaka on behalf of the first respondent (Matanga) where it was stated that all plate-less, unregistered and unlicensed vehicles will be impounded and cases referred to court for prosecution.
The statement further said the operation is being conducted in order to account for the criminals who are committing crimes using these vehicles.
On January 19, 2022, the applicant’s motor vehicle was impounded by the police officers acting under the instruction of the first respondent.
No legal basis has been provided for such impounding other than the directive given by the first respondent.
The applicant has not been charged with any criminal offence and has only been told to obtain number plates in order to have his vehicle returned to him.
Musarurwa said his vehicle was taken to a compound owned by the second respondent (Officer in Charge Harare Central) where it is accruing storage charges of US$30 per day. He added:
On December 20, 2021, I entered into an agreement of sale with Ishmael Munjozi where I purchased a Mazda CX-5.
The vehicle was imported into Zimbabwe on November 11, 2021, and has temporary number plates indicating that the validity of the number plate is indefinite. These number plates are in the vehicle.
Musarurwa said he was arrested on 19 January 2022 despite showing the ZRP officers temporary plates and car documentation.
The officers insisted that they had strict instructions to impound all cars without number plates.
He said the vehicle was seized by the police but they did not give him any documentation to confirm the booking of the car as well as an accounting of the contents of the car.
Musarurwa is demanding the return of his vehicle upon the service of the court order by the sheriff and for the respondents to meet the cost of the suit.
The respondents are yet to file opposition papers on the matter.