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Bus route war turns bloody

by Staff reporter
30 Jan 2024 at 04:15hrs | Views
GOODLUCK Nyakabau lies on his back in Harare's Stoneridge area pondering his next move.

Around this time, he should be more than 300km away from the capital city on a bus heading to the northeastern Zimbabwean border with Mozambique to a remote rural outback called Gozi in Mashonaland East province's Mudzi South district.

But today, and for some days now, he is grounded due to injuries on his forehead. He cannot resume his duties as a "loader" for Kabor, a bus company he has worked for more than a decade.

"I am grounded, I must resume work so that I can feed my family. These injuries are taking a toll on me," said Nyakabau, wriggling in pain. A father of two, Nyakabau is a victim of the ongoing turf wars between Kabor and a rival company, Zebra Kiss, which has been battling to penetrate the lucrative Harare-Gozi route.

The route passes through the infamous Makaha goldfields where several gold panners, dealers and all manner of vendors ply their trade. Even a major Chinese mining firm and others have set up shop at Makaha goldfields.

Nyakabau was allegedly attacked with an axe handle by a Zebra Kiss tout identified as Million Tsabora at Nyamande, a business centre about 40 kilometres from Gozi. Tsabora is reportedly on the run.

The vicious attack, which also saw a passenger sustain a broken arm, left him nursing six stitches above his left eye in an incident that shocked villagers who are now worried over the escalating violence.

"I was loading our bus when a Zebra Kiss loader attacked me with an axe handle. The Zebra bus crew was angry that our bus was loading more passengers than them. I sustained serious injuries on the head, but I am recovering. It was scary, but I am happy to be still alive," Nyakabau told NewsDay.

He filed a police report at Makosa Police Station with the case being investigated under CR51-01-24 and RRB 5652835.

For decades, villagers have been relying on Kabor services, one of the few bus companies which had endured the area's remoteness and bad roads. The company operates two buses: One departs Harare's Mbare Musika bus terminus at around 9.30am everyday and returns the next day, while the other departs Gozi around 3am the same day and return to Gozi the next morning, a reliable service villagers have enjoyed for years.

However, about a year ago Zebra Kiss, which has been operating on the highway from Harare to Nyamapanda Border Post, also in Mudzi district, introduced its bus on Kabor's Harare-Mutoko-Gozi route.

And recently the bus company added two more buses reportedly in an attempt to drive Kabor out of the route, which triggered a serious turf war that has now turned violent, and villagers are being harassed for boarding Kabor buses.

NewsDay recently visited the area where villagers expressed concern over the escalating war and have called on authorities to intervene."It is not looking good at all. As it stands, the wars are turning bloody and we will lose a life soon. Passengers are being harassed by touts from Zebra Kiss. All along we knew that Kabor buses are the ones that ply this route. The problem arose when Zebra Kiss introduced some buses and started fighting for passengers," said Maria Ndembera (60).

"It is no secret that villagers are loyal to Kabor buses as they have been with us through thick and thin. This has angered Zebra Kiss touts who are igniting violent clashes. Some passengers are being assaulted and insulted by these touts."

In a video circulating on social media, some touts are seen harassing passengers, among them women being barred from boarding a bus of their choice."It is no longer safe for us at all, we are harassed and forced to board buses not of our choice. We have engaged our local traditional leaders on the issue before it gets out of hand," said a villager who refused to be named.

Kabor Bus Company Mbare Musika foreman Tawanda Nhira confirmed the clashes and appealed to authorities to intervene.

"I can confirm that we are not working in harmony with Zebra Kiss Bus Company, but we are in the process of finding a lasting solution for the safety and benefit of our passengers. We have been servicing this route for a long time until Zebra Kiss introduced its three buses," Nhira said.

"Most villagers acknowledge our efforts, operating in this area, hence most of them are loyal to us. The war here is for passengers, we have touts from other bus companies forcing villagers to board their buses. For the sake of peace, we allowed Zebra Kiss to load ahead of us, but we are surprised that by the time we get to Mutoko, their buses will still be there, how can we work like this?"

This is not the first time Zebra Kiss has been in a turf war. Last year, the bus company clashed with Rimbi Travel Tours over the Harare-Mutoko-Nyamapanda route resulting in the death of a Rimbi conductor following a fatal accident.

A Zebra Kiss driver, Mike Makwara (49), was last year slapped with a two-year jail term for causing a fatal accident along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway at the height of the route war.

Makwara (49) was banned for life from driving heavy and public commuter vehicles.

The court heard that on January 12, 2023, along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway, Makwara was driving a bus belonging to Zebra Kiss heading towards Mutoko.

Another bus from Rimbi Travel and Tours was also heading in the same direction.

The court heard that the Rimbi bus driver wanted to overtake but was blocked by Makwara who kept driving in the middle of the road and at times encroaching onto the opposite lane.

As a result of continuous obstruction, the Rimbi bus rammed into a tipper truck, killing the conductor on the spot.

Efforts to get Zebra Kiss's side of the story in its latest ructions with Kabor proved fruitless.

This paper, however, witnessed its representatives distributing calendars to villagers in Mudzi as a marketing strategy.

Acting Mashonaland East provincial police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Misheck Denhere confirmed the attack on Nyakabau, adding that police are currently looking for Tsabora who is on the run.

"Police have launched a manhunt for Million Tsabora who is wanted to answer assault charges after attacking Goodluck Nyakabau near Gozi. The suspect also attacked one Tatenda Matekenya on the day. We appeal to anyone with information that may lead to the arrest of the suspect to alert the nearest police station," he said.

Denhere said the public should know that a person has the right to board a bus of his choice.

Source - newsday