An increasing number of private vehicles, mostly Honda Fit, are illegally competing with registered commuter omnibuses for passengers on all the routes leading to residential suburbs. These areas include Mkoba, Mtapa, Mambo, Lundi, South Downs, Northlea and Senga where transport business is made lucrative by students from the nearby Midlands State University. The private vehicles load six passengers instead of four and their owners have since opened up illegal terminuses in the town.
Police, Vehicle Inspectorate Department and city council security officers have done little or nothing to stop the trend â€“ allegedly CIO agents own most of the vehicles. Other owners reportedly pay bribes. For any vehicle to engage in the transport business, it should have an operatorâ€™s licence, a certificate of fitness from VID, red registration plates and pay required taxes to ZIMRA – including fees for city council. These vehicles do not comply with any of these requirements – yet they have taken over business from those who are operating in compliance with the .law
Last week the Gweru Taxi Association held a no-holds-barred meeting with the police, VID, Zimbabwe National Road Association, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Traffic Safety Board and the local council where there was a heated discussion on the matter.
Klifford Dube, the GTA deputy chairperson who represented commuter omnibus operators, expressed shock at the authoritiesâ€™ failure to stop the private vehicles from their shenanigans.
â€œWhat is shocking is that there are daily police road-blocks in the areas where these private vehicles conduct their illegal operations. But the vehicles run up and down passing through these road-blocks with ease. They are over-loaded – because on the front passenger seat there will be two people and the driver while four will be packed on the back seat. A police officer or any other authority can easily see this. But for a long time now these vehicles have been operating which shows there is corruption involved,â€ he said.
Gweru district police officer commanding operations, Elias Chivandire, admitted corruption on the part of police was at the centre of the problem.
â€œIf I tell you the number of police officers that we have fired for corruption on the roads you will be shocked. For example, we have suspended police officers from Senga station from manning a traffic road block in their area. We are trying to get rid of the root of corruption among police officers but it has not been easy. We are however working flat out to succeed,â€ he said.
Shareck Mundopa, senior Gweru depot VID officer, said they were under-staffed. â€œWe have only five officers manning the Gweru depot. This is not even sufficient to cover operations at the depot like conducting driver licence tests. We now have about nine interns who will be graduating before the end of year. So we should see things changing from the near future,â€ he said.
In January last year, a board of inquiry commissioned by Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri found out that 459 police officers in Zimbabwe owned a total of 647 commuter omnibuses. This prompted Chihuri to ban ownership of public transport vehicles by cops after there was an outcry that they enjoyed â€œspecial privilegesâ€
that other operators did not, including breaking traffic regulations and bypassing roadblocks. That trends seems to be having a fresh turn in the city as the cops now use private vehicles to do the same transport business albeit illegally.Post published in: Featured