Cash-strapped Zim finance minister announces hefty new traffic fines

News24 Correspondent

Harare - Zimbabwe’s finance minister Patrick Chinamasa has announced steep new fines of more than R1000 for various traffic offences in a move that would be widely resented and seen as another attempt at raising desperately-needed cash.

In his parliamentary budget speech on Thursday, he said the current scale of fines did not “promote safety and discipline on the roads”.

“The traffic fines are also generally lower than those obtaining in the region,” he claimed.

The minister said motorists who went through red traffic lights; overtook on solid white lines; drove without licences and did not have working foot brakes would now receive a $100 (R1 435) fine, up from $20 (R287).

He also doubled the fines for cutting corners, running amber traffic lights or engaging in “abusive behaviour” (towards police officers) from the current $10 (R143.50).

The tough new measure prompted a backlash on social media - and jokes that traffic cops could pocket much more in bribes.

Fine or bribe?

Traffic cops generally demand drivers pay up their fine (or a bribe) straight away. Whereas previously a common bribe was $10 (R143.50) for a $20 (R287), the suspicion now was drivers would be asked to pay a $50 (R717.50) to get out of a $100 (R1 435) find.

"If they catch u bribe will be $50. On a good day [an officer] can get more than 10 cars," tweeted prominent local journalist Zenzele Ndebele.

Tweeted @chiwunze: "$100 fine if u cross a red light & $20 fine if u go agnst an amber. Now ther z room 4 rent seeking by police." Other Zimbabweans joked it was time to change professions and join the police force.

Police say the money they collect was subject to an external audit, but some have been caught taking bribes.

Last year Zimbabwe’s tax chief Gershem Pasi invited the wrath of senior police officers after he suggested the force was earning up to $7m (R100m) per month from fines.

The police said the figure was much lower.