COMMUTER omnibus drivers have vowed to continue playing the cat-and-mouse games with the police, despite putting the lives of travellers at risk.
REPORT BY DALPHINE TAGWIREYI
Recently, a woman died after she was hit by a commuter omnibus that was fleeing police officers. The woman died while she was disembarking a kombi that had just parked at Copacabana bus terminus. In another case, one person was killed and six others were injured when they were run over by another commuter omnibus that was fleeing police officers.
A commuter omnibus driver, Gift Kasambwa said they had no choice but to flee from police officers, who always demanded bribes.
“Since there isn’t enough space at the terminus, we are forced to park on Chinhoyi Street and when we do this, the police pounce on us and demand bribes ranging from US$5 to US$10, which we cannot afford,” he said.
In an effort to decongest the central business district, the City of Harare has ordered commuter omnibus operators to use designated ranks, but the drivers insist that these are too small to accommodate Harare’s growing kombi population.
“City fathers always speak of constructing new ranks for us, but this has not happened. They have never used public transport, as they drive so they cannot understand the congestion that these ranks are experiencing” said Kasambwa.
Alex Pahwana complained about police raids on streets that feed into Copa Cabana rank saying the officers should know the terminus cannot accommodate all the commuter omnibuses.
“When commuters alight on Chinhoyi Street, the police count the number of alighting passengers and demand US$4 per person from us,” he lamented. “It’s as if they want to make US$200 each.”
It is estimated that there are 5 000 commuter omnibuses in Harare and the city’s termini have proved too small for these.
In search of space and passengers, kombis have spilled into town, triggering clashes with police and the Harare municipal officers, who accuse them of congesting the CBD. Harare municipal police throw spikes on fleeing kombis to puncture their tyres. This puts the lives of commuters aboard at risk.
The drivers also accused the police of smashing their windscreens, saying this was why they fled each time they were stopped by officers.
Recently police spokesperson, Charity Charamba said it was illegal for the police to smash windscreens.
“The ZRP [Zimbabwe Republic Police] does not condone such behaviour and has no policy with regards to hitting windscreens and rear mirrors,” she said. “Any officer caught smashing windscreens is subject to a police disciplinary hearing.”
Efforts to get a comment from Harare City Council spokesman, Leslie Gwindi were fruitless.