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Monday, July 27, 2009

Zimbabwe: Several cars belonging to judges seized

Five judges in Zimbabwe have had their official top of the range vehicles confiscated by taxmen after the Ministry of Justice failed to register them. The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) officials grabbed the cars as part of its intensified clampdown on unregistered cars that were brought to Zimbabwe duty free. The seizure came after Finance Minister Tendai Biti held meetings with ZIMRA Commissioner General, Gershom Pasi on the clampdown on tax defaulters.

This has exposed the administrative bugling by the Justice Ministry as the cars were by law supposed to have been registered within two weeks of their importation. Although names of the affected judges whose cars where seized could not be obtained on Thursday, judiciary sources said the vehicles were impounded this week.

A regional magistrate also had her car taken away. “It was an embarrassing scene to see judges reluctantly handing over the car keys to the revenue people. They had no choice but to comply with the law” said a law offer at the High Court. She added “ It is still not clear why the cars were not registered before they were given to the judges”

She also said that it was proper for the cars to be seized as several robbers have often used unregistered cars, "Some one could have stolen the car and committed crime... only to realise that it belongs to one of the judges. It would be difficult to prove that the judge was not the one who committed the crime".

The police have raised concerns over the proliferation of unregistered cars in Zimbabwe.

Contacted for comment, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa professed ignorance on the issue. “I am not aware of this issue, but if its true we will have to intervene soon as we can not have judges who have no vehicles” said Chinamasa.

Registrar of the High Court, Charles Nyatanga was on Thursday not available for comment.

The move might force the government to intervene to save members of the bench who are custodians of the law from embarrassment. Last year the controversial Reserve Bank Of Zimbabwe Governor Gideon Gono also made vehicle, laptops and television set donations to the judiciary.

Several cars were donated to various government ministries including the ministry of Justice over the past two years to improve working conditions of civil servants who were leaving Zimbabwe in large numbers.

Investigations this week revealed that some of the vehicles donated to Ministry of Justice were still to be cleared by the Central Vehicle Registry because of logistical and clearing issues between the government and its suppliers.

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