Anger over police, kombi wars

HARARE - Harare residents have warned that they could unfurl street protests against the police if a lasting solution to road carnage caused by traffic police  smashing kombi windscreens was not found.

The street protest threat was made at a stakeholders dialogue held at the Anglican Cathedral yesterday to find solutions to the growing problem of fatal kombi accidents.

Representatives of the police did not pitch up for the meeting, even though organisers said they were invited.

The Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators told Parliament in January that at least 50 percent of the kombis on Harare roads are owned by police officers, but the police clarified that only 459 police officers in Zimbabwe own a total of 647 commuter omnibuses which constitute only 8 percent of Harare’s commuter omnibus population, currently standing at 6 000 commuter omnibuses.

Police chief Augustine Chihuri has said members of the police force “should neither own, nor run commuter omnibus businesses to avoid a conflict of interest.”

Simba Moyo, chairman of the Combined Harare Residents Association (Chra), said the police’s conspicuous absence at the meeting indicated that they did not take the issue seriously.

Moyo said as residents, they were not happy with the lack of commitment by the police to address such a pertinent issue.

“The police are a major stakeholder in this issue yet they decide to abscond and not even send a representative,” Moyo said.

“We are not declaring war with them but we are just warning them that there are many ways to get their attention and one such way is taking the matter to the streets and demonstrating.”

Dozens of people have lost their lives in fatal cat-and-mouse games with kombi drivers, which authorities say is meant to de-congest the city and eliminate illegal pick-up points. Traffic police officers wielding baton sticks  have clashed with defiant drivers who attempt to flee from the police, often resulting in fatal accidents.

Police have distanced themselves from the accidents, laying all the blame on kombi drivers keen to evade arrest.

Moyo said the road carnage was a matter of national interest and expected the police to give full cooperation to the dialogue.

Cosmas Mbonjani, chairperson of the Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators (Ghaco), said there were a lot of illegal activities where police officers were benefitting.

“Council and ZRP seem to be benefiting from the chaos in the city,” Mbonjani said. “Until these two institutions find other means of getting an income, they will continue to solicit bribes on the roads.”

Crispen Hama, deputy commissioner of road motor transport at the ministry of Transport, said the ministry was concerned with the spike in road accidents, particularly in Harare.

He said they conducted a survey and found that over 80 percent of kombis do not have route authority. Others have not undergone a retest.

“Traffic laws are being completely violated by operators,” Hama said. “You find that the vehicle has no route authority and permit and the driver is ill equipped to be driving a public service vehicle. These are the same people who end up causing accidents on the road.”

Judith Mujegu of the Harare City Council’s traffic and transportation planning section, said it was legally the mandate of the council to run all kombi ranks in Harare.

She said if they decide to engage other stakeholders, it would be through a mutual understanding between the interested parties.

Mujegu said the city was looking to revisit some of their traffic by-laws.

“Currently our by-law only finds the machinery guilty of an offence which is why you see the vehicle being impounded to the HCC Central Stores,” she said.

“However now we want the driver and kombi owner to be held accountable for their actions if we are to address the issue.”

Comments (6)

Kombi drivers must stick to the rules of the road, and must be willing to stop for their misdeeds, Kombi drivers must stop the jungle like driving, they load passengers in the middle of the road, they load passengers at corners thus disrupting the flow of traffic, descending heavily upon them is safety for the public, a lot happens as they rush for passengers. Our streets need order of the highest calibre. If you are doing the right thing, why then run away when instructed to stop. Disobedience has brought about the smashing unfortunately not that i am blessing it. Drivers know what is wrong and right, what is required of them by law, if one must drive with a licence, produce one, defensive, produce one, road permit, produce one, medical certificate, produce one,, 18 passengers, dont overload, stop when instructed to stop at a roadblock, dont load pamushika shika, the button stick will find no use, adhere to road rules for a good relationship with cops, they are meant to maintain public order or else we will have chaotic streets, order is civilisation, fight for the removal of the button stick whilst being obedient at the same time. The cat and mouse is costing lives, i believe the drivers must bring sanity first, A kombi driver was instructed to stop at a roadblock, instead, he sped off, knocking someone down, smashing another car in the process over a simple instruction, if the driver is not licensed and is carrying passengers, is it not good for the public vehicle to be driven by a licensed, mature person for public safety. Most accidents are caused by kombis even in the absence of police.

tichaona - 29 May 2014

tichaona you contribute to the road carnage heavily, you are encouraging excess pass on the combis. a combi should ferry 15 pass only and no conductor is allowed, if he/she is there should be a pass also. the gvt should amend the laws such that traffic offenders do not pay spot fines

Jakachiriri - 29 May 2014

So much blame has been put on the police, the kombi driver and kombi owners but I think blame should also be put on passengers who selfishly demand to be dropped and picked up anywhere especially in the C.B.D resulting in the drivers committing the traffic offences.

Dr Know - 30 May 2014

Charity Charamba, the loud, foul-mouthed police spokesperson should be compelled to make a "defence" of her comrades' behaviour. Corruption, state-sanctioned corruption! That's the beginning and end of the story.

Johno - 30 May 2014

647 kombis owned by police officers the whole country, thats a lie. we know of 3 officers owning a combined 23 kombis in one route alone and how many routes do we have in Harare alone then Bulawayo then Gweru. 50% is a more realistic figure vaChihuri, Greater Harare could be very right. After banning them, have you made any follow up as to who they have disposed off the kombis to?? Banning is not the solution, the solution is for them to comply with all regulations because vakatoita huwori kare vakatenga makombi iwayo and they will certainly not throw them away, they will simply transfer names but still control them. Chawagonahapana jeri reBindura.

operator - 30 May 2014

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