Oshakati — The Oshakati Magistrate's Court is unable to trace 860 fugitive motorists with outstanding traffic fines, legal sources told New Era.
Figures obtained by New Era from the Clerk of the Oshakati Magistrate's Court show that between 2010 and 2011, an astonishing 860 traffic offenders issued with warrants of arrest could not be tracked down.
Of all the untraceable offenders, 614 were fined in 2011, while the remaining 246 were fined in 2010. The warrants of arrest were issued against motorists who were booked for various traffic offences and never showed up in court to answer to the charges, while some were simply not traceable, according to available information.
Oshana Police Commander, Commissioner Ndahangwapo Kashihakumwa, confirmed that a legal directive from the Prosecutor's Office has barred them from temporarily seizing the vehicles of the fugitive motorists.
"It was easy to lure the owners of vehicles to the police station when we temporarily stored the vehicles at the station. Through the owner we could also easily trace the offender," he said.
But now traffic offenders are not traceable and police struggle to find them and bring them to book, since they are believed to be converting ownership of vehicles, changing employers and even residences.
"For the time being our hands are tied until a solution is found," said Kashihakumwa, who added: "We'd all like to do more. We can only work with the tools we're given."
Under current law, law enforcement authorities may only impound the vehicles of drivers who have been involved in what is classified as 'serious crimes'.
A source that preferred anonymity said on the other hand there are too many unexecuted warrants of arrest in the Oshakati Magistrate's Court because of a serious staff shortage. The source blamed the government's decision not to employ more staff and allegedly not to computerise the processing system.
"Despite the fact that we are under-staffed, we have to enter all information manually, which is too much for two legal clerks," the source said.
The source further confirmed that officials could not execute the warrants as most of the accused are not traceable or simply "cannot be found".
"Due to a serious staffing issue, the magistrate has also been experiencing a backlog of traffic tickets issued and they are unable to currently process paperwork for traffic offences and conduct traffic hearings or trials and collect fines," the source added.
"It gets to the point where there are too many tickets and not enough staff. Basically, we need more staff. "This is just too much to handle, especially when we have to do the work manually," the source added.
The offences include speeding, driving through red lights, drunken driving and those flagged for moonlighting as taxi drivers but without valid taxi licences.