The Zimbabwe government imposed a new fines schedule on Wednesday which will see offenders paying up to 120,000 Zimbabwe dollars (6,667 U.S. dollars), while the least offense will now attract a fine of 200 ZWL.
The old fines ranged from 40 Zimbabwe dollars (ZWL) to 10,000 ZWL, having previously been increased from 20 ZWL for the least offense to 30,000 ZWL (up from 10,000 ZWL) for the highest.
The new schedule comes at a time the government has decided to release about an as yet unspecified number of inmates under a presidential amnesty to decongest overcrowded prisons.
The prisons, which have a holding capacity of 17,000 inmates, are currently overcrowded by 5,000.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi issued Statutory Instrument (SI) 57 of 2020 saying that the increases had been implemented in consultation with the Minister of Finance and Economic Development Mthuli Ncube in terms of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act.
He said in a supplement to the Zimbabwe Government Gazette of Feb. 28 that the fines for the first, second and third levels which deal with minor offences such as public drinking had gone up from 20 ZWL, 30 ZWL and 60 ZWL respectively to 200 ZWL, 300 ZWL and 500 ZWL respectively.
According to the law, a police officer can allow a person accused of a minor offence to pay an admission of guilt fine if the officer has reasonable grounds for believing that if the offender were to appear in court, the magistrate would not impose a sentence of imprisonment or a fine exceeding Level 3.
The fines schedule is divided into 14 levels, with Level 14 attracting the highest fine of 120,000 ZWL.
A lawyer who preferred not to be named said the new schedule was likely to see a lot of people being committed to prison after failing to pay the new fines, which he described as hefty. Enditem