Toyota Raum pirate taxis plying the streets of Harare are causing serious traffic jams despite efforts by police and municipal officers to tame the city’s traffic jungle.
BY NQOBILE NKIWANE
They pose a serious threat to both pedestrians and other motorists as they break every road regulation in their quest to make as many trips as possible in the shortest space of time.
Pirate taxi drivers are always on the lookout for traffic officers and speed off when approached, endangering their passengers, unsuspecting pedestrians and other motorists.
Early this year, the Harare City Council (HCC) and the police impounded several pirate taxis and unregistered commuter omnibuses under an operation code-named No to Robbers and Traffic Violators.
But the pirate taxis do not seem discouraged by the operation.
Most of them ply the City-Avondale and Fourth Street-Market Square routes, short routes where they charge far less than registered operators and still make a profit.
Registered commuter omnibus operators and taxi drivers are livid because the illegal taxis drive them out of business.
One taxi driver speaking to The Standard on condition of anonymity said the pirate taxis had literally taken over all routes in Harare and others outside the city.
“The Avondale route is no longer profitable for us. These pirate taxis have completely taken over,” he said.
The taxi driver alleged that the police and the municipal officers were failing to completely remove the pirate taxis because they accepted bribes while some were the owners of the vehicles.
“What is more worrying is that the policemen do not always charge the operators because some of the vehicles belong to them and even if they do arrest them, they usually release them after taking bribes from them,” he said.
Some operators of the illegal taxis last week said they would not stop the shuttle business as it was their only source of livelihood.
“I understand that it is dangerous and illegal but I have to take the risk so as to fend for my family,” said one Vincent Mhandu. “I was a commuter omnibus driver until I managed to buy my own car and started my own business”.
Harare City Council (HCC) spokesperson, Leslie Gwindi said the local authority did not allow the use of unregistered public transport vehicles.
“There is an on-going campaign that brings together the city traffic enforcement unit and the Zimbabwe Republic Police. The two units arrest and impound the pirate taxis and charge them for the practice,” he said.
Gwindi however, said the participation of the commuting public was vital in ending the operations of pirate taxis.
“Once the commuting public makes a resolve not to use the pirate taxis — the operators will naturally move out of the roads,” said Gwindi.
He said HCC planned to introduce a mass bus transport system which he said would get rid of congestion.