FAILURE to change ownership of vehicles and smuggling of cars is proving costly for some motorists as top-of-the range vehicles recently impounded by police are now gathering dust at Harare City Council’s central stores as owners are desperately trying to provide paperwork.
Three weeks ago, the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) launched a blitz that resulted in thousands of vehicles being impounded over registration, tax and licensing issues.
The impounded vehicles were not just the Honda Fit cars used to shuttle passengers in and around the city, but included luxury cars like the Toyota Land Cruiser V8, Toyota Hilux (Revo) double cab, Mercedes Benz and Ford Ranger double cabs.
Now they are gathering dust in the council yard as the owners are struggling to produce the requisite documentation.
For a vehicle to be released, relevant documentation must be provided, one has to pay about US$279, which should not be too much for someone driving the latest Toyota Land Cruiser.
But it is not that easy for some. Most of these vehicles are registered in the names of previous owners because there was no change of registered ownership as required by the law.
This is a simple process that requires taxes to be paid, and the fancier the car, the higher the taxes. So some skip.
Some vehicles were smuggled into the country and there is no paperwork to prove their legitimacy, hence they cannot be released from the yard.
On entry, customs duties have to be paid, but some people circumvent the formal entry and drive through using undesignated dust roads or sneak over a shallow river.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, warned that driving vehicles registered in the name of a previous owner hinders investigations and should end.
“The owners of most of the cars, especially top of the range, that have overstayed at central stores and other police stations countrywide, cannot be released because they are registered in the names of some people who are not available to produce some important documents.
“People are buying vehicles in Zimbabwe and the vehicles change hands several times without effecting change of ownership.
“Such cases are hindering investigations and the vehicles end up overstaying at police stations or other yards like council’s central stores in Harare.
“Even when family members die, others inherit without changing ownership and this becomes a problem in facilitating the release of vehicles impounded under operations of this nature.
“We therefore urge people to ensure vehicle ownership change is effected whenever there is a sale,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
Asst Comm Nyathi said some vehicles were smuggled into the country and there is no documentation to show how they entered the country’s borders.
In some cases, Asst Comm Nyathi said, motorists are failing to raise the money required to effect the processes leading to the release of the vehicles.
In Chitungwiza, police yards are full and all the impounded cars are now being parked at Chibuku Stadium in Seke after police struck a deal with Chitungwiza Municipality.
So far police have arrested over 24 000 motorists countrywide in the on-going operation.
Last month, Harare City Council hiked tow away and storage fees, with motorists expected to pay $9 898 from $2 451 or an equivalent of US$100 at the official exchange rate of a few weeks ago to have an impounded car released and $4 949 (US$50), up from $980 (US$10), for storage per day.
The new fees were contained in a circular released by the council’s corporate and communications department.
Towing a 15-seater commuter omnibus will cost $11 878 (US$120), up from $3 268 (US$50), and an 18-seater $13 857 (US$140) up from $4 085 (US$50).
Fees outside the city centre will attract an additional charge of $990 equivalent to US$10 at official exchange rate per kilometre.
Conventional buses, lorries and articulated heavy lorries will pay a private contractor charge plus 50 percent penalty, storage and VAT.
On storage charges, commuter omnibuses will now pay $5 939 (US$50) up from $1 470 (US$15), conventional buses and lorries will now have to fork out $6 929 (70), up from $2 450 (US$25), and articulated heavy lorries $8 908 (US$90), up from $2 940 (US$30).
The city council said the fees were meant to deter people from committing parking offences, rather than generate revenue. They are set high so no one can easily afford them and so refrains from messing around. The charges in Zimbabwe dollars are payable at the equivalent official exchange rate.
Police, however, said they don’t charge storage fees on all unregistered cars that are being impounded during this on-going operation and taken to any police station countrywide. Herald.