Understanding Traffic Fines in Zimbabwe

The Short Version ...

To assist motorists in understanding traffic fines in Zimbabwe and the mystical Form 265, which like the Unicorn, is nowhere to be found …

  • ZRP does not allow a grace period to pay a traffic fine. ZRP is withholding the Form 265 by not making it available to members manning checkpoints. Form 265 allows the accused to admit his/her guilt and pay the fine within a period specified on the notice.
  • ZRP apply a Schedule of Deposit Fines for a range of offences. The current version has been issued in 2024, is being used by ZRP and in theory has been approved by the Chief Magistrate.
  • The maximum deposit fine a police officer can legally invite is a Level 3 fine. A fine higher than Level 3 can only be imposed by a magistrate after a court appearance.Based on SI 14A of 2023, the fines relevant to us are: Level 1: US$5 (for this level of offence, ZRP typically issues a caution), Level 2: US$15 and Level 3: US$30
  • A dysfunctional vehicle registration ecosystem does not provide for the efficient identification of vehicles and CURRENT owners (especially places of residence).
  • ZRP should be able to issue a form 265 with the realistic expectation of locating defaulters who did not return to pay their fine. Until this happens motorists will continue to bear the brunt of an inefficient vehicle registry.

The Long Version ...

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) apply a Schedule of Deposit Fines for a range of vehicle equipment, use, licensing and other offences discovered during roadside checks. 

The current version has been issued in 2024, is being used by ZRP and in theory has been approved by the Chief Magistrate. Download a copy here Schedule of Deposit Fines (Traffic), 2024

The maximum deposit fine a police officer can legally invite is a Level 3 fine. A fine higher than Level 3 can only be imposed by a magistrate after a court appearance. Deposit fines are imposed per offence, and if the motorist is found with more than one ‘issue’, the police officer can add the offences up and the total fine can exceed the Level 3 amount. Each Admission of Guilt (AoG) form may reflect one offence only. ZRP may not “double up” the fines listed. For example, section 39(1) of the Road Traffic (Construction, Equipment and Use) Regulations 2015 (no white front reflectors) – $10. The maximum fine that can be imposed is $10 for this offence, not $10 per non-compliant reflector, i.e. $20. ($ values for illustration only).

Effectively, in the year 2024, ZRP are relying on a Schedule of Deposit Fines issued by the Chief Magistrate in 2017, or perhaps even earlier – whichever version is still available in the police station.

To calculate the fine, the ZRP member refers to the fines schedule, and whatever was Level 3 on the copy to hand, the current Level 3 fine is applied. For example, a Level 3 fine in August 2017 was $20, then the current Level 3 fine is applied, $30.

Statutory Instrument 14A of 2023, Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) (Standard Scale of Fines) Notice 2023, published on 22.02.23, lists the Standard Scale of Fines. (A copy of SI 14A/2023 can be downloaded here SI 14A/2023 Criminal law (Standard Scale of Fines) Norice, 2023 

The fines relevant to us here:

  • Level 1: US$5 (For this level of offence, ZRP typically issues a caution)
  • Level 2: US$15
  • Level 3: US$30 
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Deposit Fines, or “Spot Fines” and the Elusive Form 265

ZRP are using an Admission of Guilt (AoG) form (Z.R.P. N.TFC), referred to internally as “Admission of Guilt [Z69(j)] receipt”. Motorists will note the reference to Form 265 (to the right of the *WARNING* notice, under the AoG document number). However, there is no evidence of the Form 265 at ZRP check points …

In terms of sections 141 and 356 of the Criminal Procedures & Evidence Act [Chapter 9:07] (CP&E Act) an alleged offender must be given a form by the police officer which –

  • States what the alleged offence is,
  • Specifies the full names and address of the accused person,
  • Requires the accused to appear in court on the date specified on the form,
  • Allows the accused to admit his guilt and pay the fine fixed by the police officer within a period specified on the notice.

If the offender elects to pay the deposit fine, he signs a document admitting his guilt and pays the fine. A copy of the document should go to the clerk of the relevant magistrate’s court. Motorists are thus allowed by law the option of appearing in court or paying a deposit fine within a specified time. The motorist is entitled to elect to go to court even if he or she intends to plead guilty. The document providing the two required options – to appear in court or to pay a deposit fine within a specified period – is referred to as Form CP&E 15. It appears in the Criminal Procedure (Forms) Rules 1970 (RGN 196 of 1970). The police have a form in similar format called a Form 265. A copy can be viewed here: Form 265 – Criminal Procedure (Forms) (RGN 196/1970). (Sample for illustration purposes only).

ZRP have for many years withheld the Form 265 by not making it available to members manning checkpoints. The Form 265 field on the Admission of Guilt form, is typically crossed through and either DIRECT or ARRESTED written in the field where the Form 265 reference number, should appear. The WARNING notice “You should not pay a deposit fine or sign an admission of guilt unless you admit …, etc.” gets similar treatment, with a line drawn through it by the ZRP member.

The result is the motorist’s right to appear in court or opt to pay the deposit fine within a stated period is being unlawfully denied.

While the police do have the right to issue invitations to pay deposit fines, they do not, however, have the general right to insist on the payment of those fines on the spot, nor to adopt measures like taking the driver’s licence or detaining the vehicle to coerce the driver into paying.

  • Justices Cheda and Kamocha, in S v Babbage 2012 (2) ZLR 125 (H), made it clear that the police officer cannot and must not insist on a spot fine simply because he does not have the necessary ticket book to carry out his functions.
  • In Makunura A v Minister of Home Affairs (17-HH-113), Justice Muremba ruled on 22 February, 2017 “What is illegal is for police officers at roadblocks to force motorists to pay spot fines against their will.”

No provision of the CP&E Act or any other law authorises the police to demand payment on the spot.

In conclusion ...

If any member of ZRP or the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has more up to date information than what is stated here, the author welcomes any input or corrections – at the earliest opportunity, to ensure the accuracy of this communication.

Finally, we encourage the stakeholders responsible for the ecosystem providing for the efficient identification of vehicles and owners (especially places of residence), to be expedited. The stakeholders – falling under the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, include the Central Vehicle Registry, Zinara, the Vehicle Examination Department and Traffic Safety Council.

ZRP should be able to issue a Form 265 with the realistic expectation of locating defaulters who do not return to pay their fine. Until this happens, motorists will continue to bear the brunt of “spot” fines.

Safe journeys,
Sean Q.
July, 2024 

Useful tip: Since 2022 it been a requirement to have your fingerprints recorded if you admit guilt for an offence, even for a traffic offence up to Level 3. In other words, go prepared – carry hand sanitizer and tissues.

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