Kombis barred from city centre
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Bulawayo - Commuter omnibuses have been banned from passing through the city centre in a bid to reduce congestion and accidents, the Chronicle reported.
Traffic police on Friday launched an operation, code-named "100 percent decongest the city," which is also aimed at eliminating illegal pick-up points in the central business district.
By Monday 43 commuter omnibuses and 22 pirate taxis had been impounded.
The exercise is running concurrently with the ongoing Bulawayo City Council operation of clamping and towing away vehicles at roadblocks to compel motorists to pay for about 20 000 outstanding traffic offence tickets worth more than $100 000.
Scores of kombi drivers have protested against the move and accused police of smashing windscreens of their vehicles whenever they refused to comply.
Police officers and council security guards have been deployed at roadblocks in routes leading into the city centre to force commuter omnibus drivers from the western suburbs to drive straight to Basch Street Terminus, popularly known as Egodini.
Those from the eastern areas that include North End and Queens Park are barred from proceeding beyond Third Avenue Terminus while kombis from suburbs such as Hillside, Suburbs, Famona and Morningside are also expected to drive to Egodini.
In an interview yesterday, the officer-in-charge of traffic in Bulawayo, Superintendent Henry Mhlanga, said the operation had been launched to bring sanity to the cityâ€™s roads.
â€œA majority of accidents in the city are caused by vehicles that pick and drop passengers at undesignated points. As police we are concerned about the high number of accidents caused by these vehicles, hence the operation,â€ said Supt Mhlanga.
He admitted that a commuter omnibus had its windscreen smashed by the police when the driver failed to comply with orders at a roadblock and tried to run over a police officer.
â€œI can only confirm one such incident that happened at TM Hyper on Monday. The driver tried to run over a police officer. He locked his windows and refused to communicate with officers before trying to run over one of them. After the incident where a female police officer was killed by a motorist recently, we are not taking chances,â€ said Supt Mhlanga.
He said police needed to decongest areas like Herbert Chitepo Street, 6th Avenue Extension, 12th Avenue and Leopold Takawira Avenue around the Large City Hall where most illegal operators are found.
â€œThese drivers just make sudden U-turns in front of oncoming traffic and sometimes just speed across intersections when they are running away from the police. Such behaviour is dangerous and endangers other road users,â€ said Supt Mhlanga.
He said the operation would be in place until every driver complied.
The owner of the commuter omnibus whose windscreen was smashed by the police, who only identified himself as Mr Nkomo, said he was unhappy about the incident.
â€œI think it amounts to malicious damage of property. I used $70 to replace the windscreen and paid another $60 for two windows that were also broken by the police. I am unhappy about this,â€ said Mr Nkomo.
A kombi crew that joined many others to evade the police roadblock that was at McKeurtan Primary School by going to the city centre via Makokoba said they were forced by the demands of their employer to do it.
â€œThe police are stationed there to force all kombis that use Luveve Road to turn into Basch Street and go to Egodini. The business is oversubscribed and my employer demands at least $60 everyday.
If I queue at Egodini, I will only make about three round trips a day but picking passengers along 6th Avenue enables me to make about six or seven trips,â€ said the driver who declined to be named.
The conductor castigated the police for smashing windscreens and the council for impounding cars.
Asked why he did not simply comply with regulations to avoid the inconvenience, he said it would cause them to lose their jobs as they would fail to meet the daily cash target.
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