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Bulawayo bus operators bend the rules, flout BCC by-laws

by Staff reporter
15 Jul 2023 at 11:38hrs | Views
WITH the words "Inter Africa" inscribed at the back, a silver Toyota Quantum vehicle makes a sudden stop and a tout bolts out, approaches two women and asks where they are travelling to. The tout tells the women there is a bus travelling to Masvingo and all they have to do is hop into the silver vehicle and there will be driven to the bus.

Obviously confused why the bus is parked at another location and not along the "usual" pick-up point, an illegal pick-up point by the way, along Leopold Takawira Avenue next to Eveline High School, the ladies flatly refuse to board the vehicle.

It's a Thursday morning and the Saturday Chronicle is trying to find out why long-distance buses are circumventing Bulawayo City Council by-laws, which criminalise picking up and dropping passengers at undesignated areas.
Until recently, lawlessness and chaos have been the order of the day with several long-distance bus operators plying intercity routes violating council regulations.

The rampant illegal picking of passengers at undesignated points by long-distance bus crews, particularly, along Bulawayo-Harare Road, Leopold Takawira Extension opposite Centenary Park, and along Bulawayo-Plumtree Road at John Love Motors went unchecked for long, raising the ire of residents.

Posing as a passenger travelling to Filabusi, this reporter is told to get into the silver vehicle, which at that point had five other passengers, and they will be dropped off where the Bulawayo-Masvingo bus was parked.

"You will pay when we get to the bus, don't worry. The bus is just around the corner and it's almost full so it will be leaving very shortly. The bus driver can't park it here, the BCC police are patrolling and we can't risk getting the bus clamped," the young tout says.

True to his word, the Saturday Chronicle news crew took a short walk along Samuel Parirenyatwa Street and observed a yellow and red Inter Africa bus parked in an open space just after the Eveline High School perimeter wall.
At the front of the bus, a sign written Bulawayo-Masvingo is placed on the windscreen. Passengers are calmly seated inside the bus with three more touts loading bags into the bus.

Inter Africa bus crews seem not to be the only operators that have adopted the new methods of circumventing BCC by-laws and evading law enforcement authorities. At Tredgold next to the former Edgar's shop on Herbert Chitepo Street another unmarked white kombi is patrolling the area soliciting for passengers travelling to Harare.

The same modus operandi of luring potential long-distance passengers into a smaller vehicle and driving to a "secret location" where the bus is parked is used.

But it appears passengers who are still in the dark about the new arrangement are sceptical.
Unlike in the past when Leopard Takawira Avenue was literally turned into a one-street bus terminus, we observed on Friday morning that buses are nowhere to be seen opposite Centenary Park where lawlessness previously reigned supreme.

But nightfall is a different story altogether with long-distance buses turning to their old habits. Buses rank at undesignated places right in the middle of the CBD at places such as Tredgold, around TM Hyper Supermarket area, outside Chicken Inn along Jason Moyo and 8th Avenue, near Chicken Slice along 9th Avenue and Fort Street.

These places are increasingly being associated with more illegal activity ranging from touting, alcohol, forex trading and drug dealing, as well as vending throughout the night. The bus operators seem to be taking advantage of the fact that in darkness there will be less or no law enforcement agents in the vicinity.

The invasion by the bus operators is not only promoting illegal activities but also causing traffic jams and mayhem for private motorists and pedestrians.

Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police have taken note of the situation and would soon descend on the culprits.

"We are aware of the situation, which is a cause for concern and we, as the police, will not allow such illegal behaviour to flourish and persist. Bulawayo will be brought back to sanity," he said.

While senior Bulawayo City Council officials could not be reached for comment, Deputy Mayor Councillor Mlandu Ncube is on record saying the local authority will clamp down on buses operating from illegal pick-up points.

"Everyone, especially those who are plying the Masvingo route have got loading bays at Renkini Bus Terminus so they must go there. Council will be left with no option but to clamp and impound defiant buses," he said.

However, residents and business owners argue that council is sleeping on duty as lawlessness is getting worse by each passing day.

"The council is in total slumber. Bus crews have taken over the streets and are disrupting the flow of traffic. Not only are these buses, Honda Fits and kombis being a menace but they are promoting crime as they engage the services of drunken and rowdy touts while vendors block pavements.

"So daring are the vendors who are now bringing braai stands to cook meals on the pavements. This is suffocating business and this has tainted the image of the city. Our city fathers are sleeping on the job and must wake up or ship out," complained a fast-food outlet manager.

Source - The Chronicle