Uniformed forces: New rank marshals in town

HARARE - Brutal force employed by security forces to nab the rag-tag Zanu PF-sponsored militia at bus termini in the capital has seen an uneasy calm returning in most parts of Harare where police officers and soldiers are now the new “rank marshals”.

But is the tranquillity going to last at a time when the city fathers are failing to step in and take control of their properties?

Uniformed forces that helped bring order have taken charge of some of the termini and residents’ groups say the termini have become a feeding trough for the men and women in uniform.

Under the Urban Councils’ Act (Chapter 29:15) and the Regional, Town and Country Planning Act (Chapter 29:12) Harare is supposed to plan and regulate traffic, markets and housing but has failed in its duty to monitor and implement its own regulations and systems dealing with not only kombis but also vendors.

Emmanuel Chiroto, Harare deputy mayor said the council which has in the past been at the mercy of Zanu PF shock-troopers, is going to swiftly fill the void before Mandimbandimba return.

“We do not want any further delays. So we have asked management to ensure that we take over the ranks before the touts begin. These people were making a lot of money that has to be stopped. We will thus continue working with the police so as to ensure that touts do not come back,” said Chiroto.

Chiroto said he had no problem with continued police presence at termini as long as they do not charge a fee.

But the country’s cops mistrusted by the public because of corruption and their heavy-handed methods are said to be receiving cash from desperate and scared transporters.

Precious Shumba, chairperson of Harare Residents Trust (HRT), said government, through the ministry of Home Affairs should give municipal police arresting powers to enable them to deal with daring touts who have hitherto defied them.

“The Anti Corruption Commission should deploy its officials to all the ranks and see what police officers are doing, demanding $5 from each commuter omnibus in bribes,” alleges Shumba.

To last or not to, the hiatus brought by a military intervention following the beating of a soldier by some rowdy touts popularly known as mandimbandimba is a welcome delusion for residents blighted by the noise pollution vented by hustlers who reap from kombis and also citizens.

Investigations by the Daily News on Sunday revealed that touts make at least $30 000-a-day and also determine bus fares.

Around 5pm at Charge Office during the peak hour, the cacophony of touts blaring destinations that ironically are known by their target market are gone.

In their place are unpredictable police officers who have reduced the usually boisterous kombi crews to mutes.

“We are happy that we are no longer paying unnecessary money to the touts and we hope that the police will maintain their presence and ensure that order is observed at ranks,” said one kombi driver.

But still there is no love lost between police and kombi drivers not only on bus termini where they are accused of coaxing bribes and also beating up misfits but also on roads where they are still creaming kombis dry.

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