Police have given up on kombis

HARARE - Some time ago, Transport and Infrastructure Development minister Obert Mpofu said over 500 000 vehicles in the country were not roadworthy.

This is an extremely high number of defective vehicles in a country with a supposedly functional government.

And only a fortnight ago, Police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri told us more than 80 percent of commuter omnibuses in Harare were operating illegally.

“Let the public know that, kombis and in most cases the owners of these kombis, are operating outside the law,” he said.

Again, this is quite shocking.

More than 80 percent of unregistered public transport vehicles is frighteningly huge a proportion in a country with a purportedly working police force, and functioning local and national governance.

It is clear that the police, local and national government have lost control of the discipline required on our streets and roads.

There is an overall breakdown in the regulation of public transport that is unacceptable.

Musiiwa Chanengeta, the driver of the kombi that killed 10 people when it smashed into a tree along Seke Road recently, did not meet statutory specifications to drive a public transport vehicle.

Further, the vehicle was also not properly documented. A few weeks before, four-year-old Tanatswa Neil Mutyora had been killed by a commuter omnibus driver fleeing from police in the city centre.

The kombi drivers have been a law unto themselves for far too long. But then Chihuri said something rather disturbing.

“Since such a big number of kombis operate without an proper documents, how is the public going to travel without alternative transport system if the police remove such kombis from the road?”

In other words, the police have surrendered to the unscrupulous operators; a dereliction of duty.

They have chosen to sacrifice the law for the utilitarian objective that such exemption is right if it is useful or beneficial to the majority of commuters.

The import of this unholy trade-off is, in fact, quite mortifying. It means, virtually anyone can bring a vehicle onto the road and become a public transport operator. 

The condition and state of the vehicle is the sole responsibility of the owner.

And when found by the police, such unregistered vehicles will not be taken off the road because they are providing a service to the public.

The logic is quite perturbing. Can we, for instance, allow unregistered doctors to operate because they will be providing a service to the numerous sick?

This form of utilitarianism, not only demeans the purpose and value of law, but as we can see, is fraught with dangers.

Philosophers speak of the “state of nature” — the disorderly, uncontrolled society and precursor to modern governments.

Contemporary governments justify their existence from creating well-ordered societies. As far as public transport management is concerned, both local and national have allowed a lawless primitiveness that we should not accept. 

Despite the fact that his vehicle was not properly registered, Chanengeta went through two traffic checks. He did not have a defensive driving certificate, a pre-requisite for public transport drivers.

The kombi had neither passenger insurance nor route authority.

The police and local authorities have left the safety of desperate commuters in the hands of unscrupulous people and loonies who have neither courtesy nor regard for human life. 

As a society, we have become inured to road carnage so much that after a momentary public outrage and official crocodile tears, life reverts to “normal.”

The 10 lives lost last week will now only become a mere background paragraph or two to a story on a future tragedy; just as young Tafadzwa was to the Seke Road accident. 

Media reports on the feral behaviour of kombi drivers and numerous accidents fail to elicit any policy response or action.

This cannot go on. The police, local and national government need to take back full control of the public transport system.

Surrendering the safety of commuters to these sewer rats should not be an option.

Comments (3)

We know the reason. It is that the majority of those mini-buses are owned by the police.Madam or is it commander Charity Charamba knows that.The minister of Home Affairs knows that va Chihuri knows about it. Any constable manning our roads know it.Save for a few mini-buses that you see with shattered wind screens.Do you know that the same applies to the small cars that ply the inter-city routes? That is why our police force is patriotic to the ruling party.Mugabe mu office huhori pachena. It is their time. It is a regime that has brought corruption to all societies in Zimbabwe, dishonesty, lack of morals, rape, lawlessness, abject poverty. And stooges who do not care about other people because they are lining their pockets living large and sending their children to expensive private schools will tell you that all is well. We are not stupid.Time will tell.

SHAVA - 27 May 2014

If Chihuri has nothing to say he should just do that and say nothing. The police that were manning the two road blocks should be answerable as to how they allowed such an driver to pass through and they do so all the time.

Dr Know - 27 May 2014

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