Zacariah Phiri and his Recently Acquired Device for Annoying Roadusers

Written By: The Lowdown - Aug• 31•00

He finally got me! Zacariah Phiri, with what I thought was his Recently Acquired Device for Annoying Road Users (RADAR). But then I discovered it wasn’t a RADAR at all and it was suggested that it might possibly be a Locally Accepted System of Embezzling Revenue (LASER), but it wasn’t that either. It was in fact a camera speed measuring system or CSMS (Cops Swindling Members of Society).

On the day in question, I was tearing along the Kafue Road at the lightning speed of 84 kph, a frightening 4 km over the speed limit, when my rubber hit Zacariah Phiri’s three rubbers laid out across the road. Being a law abiding citizen, I turned off the road as directed, parked my vehicle so as not to obstruct other vehicles, undid my seat belt and proceeded to supply the information requested, in answer to the charge of breaking the speed limit.

My side of the conversation went like this:
“No, I am not required to pay the fine now. I have seven days in which to pay it.”
“I’m sorry, I have not seen any S.I. (Statutory Instrument) issued under Cap 464 that requires that fines for speeding be paid immediately.”
“According to Cap 464 you can’t impound my vehicle unless it is defective. Please inspect it, and if you find anything wrong with it, then go ahead and impound it.”
“No, that sign doesn’t say I should pay the fine now. It says that ‘if I pay a fine, I should obtain an official receipt’.”
“Please may I see the calibration certificate for the machine”
“I’ll be back shortly, as soon as I have been down to the machine to see the certificate.”

 After a short drive to Zacariah Phiri who was sitting under the trees, the conversation continued.
“Good afternoon, please may I see the calibration certificate for this machine”
“What is the serial number of this machine?”
“I am confused. The number on the machine says 1314, but the serial number according to the certificate says 622”
“Are you sure that they issued one certificate for a number of machines? I am not an expert, but from what I know about the Assize Act and calibration certificates, each machine should have its own certificate, because the variances may differ from machine to machine”
“If you don’t mind, I’ll just write down the details of this certificate.”

Another short trip up the road back to where Zacariah Phiri was. My conversation took up from where it left off.
“Why is there no carbon paper behind this form?”
“But surely I must have a copy of the document, so that I know what you have charged me with. It is also supposed to tell me how much the fine is and that if I don’t pay the fine or want to defend it, I should attend Court on a specific date and time”
“Well, surely it’s not my fault that you don’t have the necessary forms”
“No, I am not going to pay the fine now, because I am not required to pay it immediately. I can either defend this in Court or I can pay an Admission of Guilt fine”
“No, you can’t impound my car as it is not defective”
“Sorry, it is my right to be able to defend this charge in Court if I so wish”
“No, I am neither denying nor admitting the charge. I merely want what is my legal right and if you do not have the correct forms to charge me, you should find another form so that you can charge me and I will go to a Police Station and pay the fine.”
“It is my legal right to be correctly charged and all I want are my legal rights!”

About an hour later, I left Zacariah Phiri with a form, not the correct one, but a form, instructing me to pay the fine. After that, my fingers got working and the suppliers of the machines in South Africa confirmed that:
* they had calibrated 6 machines for Zacariah Phiri in February;
* the serial numbers of the machines were in sequence from 617 to 622;
* each machine has its own calibration certificate;
* the calibration certificates are valid for one year;
* the variance was approximately 2 percent or 2 kilometres, which ever is the greatest;
* there should be 1.5 metres between the pneumatic lines laid across the road (I stopped and measured these at a later date and they were correctly spaced);
* the machines can produce a photograph, which shows the vehicle, and two numbers, which are the initial reading and a subsequent reading.

On the day that I stopped to measure the distance between the pneumatic lines, I again confirmed the serial number of the machine in use and it was the same machine. In most places, the Law provides for an allowance of 10 percent on the recorded speed. This ensures that motorists are treated with a measure of fairness, especially where they are making an effort to comply with the Laws, but may have a slight variance on their speedometer reading. More importantly, it ensures that the enforcement agency is covered for any malfunctioning of their measuring equipment. Not in Zambia! I have lost count of the number of people charged for travelling one kilometre over the speed limit.

In addition to this, the fine is K67,500 whether one is travelling three kilometres or thirty kilometres over the speed limit. Our Law needs to be updated to take care of these anomalies. If this is not done, motorists will blatantly disregard the speed limits and travel at excessive speeds, which will result in an increase in road accidents, and the resultant fatalities, injuries and other costs. Please don’t misunderstand me – I fully and actively support Law enforcement. It is the only way to prevent anarchy, but it must be done in accordance with the Laws that exist.

On a daily basis, motorists are being intimidated by Zacariah Phiri. This will only stop when motorists know their legal rights and insist that Zacariah Phiri gives them their legal rights. If Zacariah Phiri tries to intimidate you, get as much information as you can, including asking him (or her) for his name and number (which he is obliged by law to give you, although it seems common for them to refuse). Immediately contact the District Traffic Officer (DTO) at Lusaka Central Police Station (or the Police Station in the area) and make a report on what happened. If we do not make this effort, the situation will continue and we will have only ourselves to blame.

In conclusion, I must take my hat off to the officer who dealt with me. He was polite, pleasant and did not try to intimidate me or feed me with an incorrect interpretation of the Law. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the two ladies there. It was they who attempted to intimidate and misinform me.

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