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44 vehicles impounded in crackdown on errant kombis

by Staff reporter
12 Feb 2024 at 23:44hrs | Views
BULAWAYO City Council (BCC) in conjunction with police yesterday launched a blitz against pirate taxis and errant kombis defying a directive to move to the newly upgraded Egodini bus terminus and other designated places as part of efforts to decongest the city centre.

The crackdown is part of efforts by BCC to tame lawlessness and restore sanity in the city centre. Of late, kombis and Honda                    Fit pirate taxis popularly known as "mushikashika" have been creating chaos and congestion in the central business district (CBD).

The operation, which started as early as 6am saw municipal police and ZRP officers camping in several undesignated areas in the city centre to prevent pirate taxis and kombis from picking up and dropping off passengers.

In some instances, a Chronicle news crew witnessed cat-and-mouse games as defiant public transport operators refused to comply with the order to vacate the CBD. Some commuters yesterday faced challenges in getting into town as some kombis and pirate taxis opted to park their vehicles to avoid clashing with the police.

Police maintained a heavy presence throughout the day at illegal pick-up points and several intersections where commuter omnibuses and pirate taxis rank.

They also barricaded some of the streets to prevent kombis from picking up commuters.

The Chronicle news crew observed that popular illegal pick-up points that are usually a hive of activity such as Sixth Avenue Extension, Herbert Chitepo Street, 11th Avenue, Leopold Takawira Street around Large City Hall and corner Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street/Third Avenue had been deserted with police maintaining their visibility.

However, some defiant commuter omnibus drivers and pirate taxi operators, with the assistance of touts, dodged the law enforcement agents as they constantly kept an eagle's eye on the situation. Some could be seen surreptitiously taking commuters to secluded places where they boarded their cars.

Others preferred to divert from their normal routes and drop off passengers in the city centre where there were no police officers.

By yesterday evening, scores of commuters could be seen milling around the City Hall and other undesignated pick-up points waiting for transport.

BCC corporate communications manager Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the relocation of kombis and vendors to Egodini is being implemented in phases.

"When kombis settle in at Egodini we will then move vendors to designated vending sites. There are vending bays that have already been set up at Egodini and hopefully, now that transport operators are warming up to Egodini, vendors will follow suit," she said.

Mrs Mpofu said they have identified other areas where vendors would be relocated.

"There are several areas that have been identified and vending bays are being constructed as we speak," she said. Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said police on their part are also targeting pirate taxis that are congesting the CBD.

He said police would be out in full force to enforce the law with those failing to comply risking being prosecuted.

"We are targeting mushikashika, commuter omnibuses, and buses including any other motorist caught on the wrong side of the law. We encourage members of the public to cooperate with police officers instead of speeding off to evade arrest," said Insp Ncube.

"We urge members of the public to use designated places of transport and avoid being inconvenienced as they will also be made to pay fines for contributing to this menace."

Insp Ncube said they are yet to meet with the city council to assess progress on the operation.

By 10am yesterday police had impounded 44 vehicles, mostly Honda Fits and kombis.

Insp Ncube said a majority of accidents in the city were caused by vehicles that pick up and drop off passengers at undesignated points.

"Most of these kombi and pirate taxi drivers just make sudden U-turns in front of oncoming traffic and sometimes just speed across intersections whenever they see our officers to evade arrest," he said

Kombi and pirate taxi drivers vowed to stay put, arguing that there was no business at Egodini.

"Egodini is too far and there is no business and the requirements for us to rank there are just ridiculous. There are so many vehicles and we all cannot rank there," fumed Mr Thabani Nkomo, a kombi driver

Another kombi driver, who declined to be named, said: "This is our industry and we are trying to survive, and for us to meet our employers' targets, we have to use illegal pick-up points."

The local authority in partnership with Terracotta Private Limited reopened Egodini Mall Taxi Rank on Monday last week, but only a few commuters and transporters complied while many informal traders are yet to occupy the new-look facility.  Council has allocated about 400 vending bays to informal traders to operate from Egodini, which had been defunct for eight years, as Terracotta struggled to rehabilitate the facility.

Source - The Chronicle