Kombis turn city into jungle

HARARE - Minibuses are causing unprecedented traffic congestion, lawlessness and mayhem in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, where life has become hell for other motorists, pedestrians and workers in the Central Business District.

With reports that government is mulling an outright ban of kombis in the city centre to decongest the city, commuter omnibus drivers have become even more brazen.

And it appears police have completely failed to bring order to this city centre chaos.

The city’s ever-rising traffic problems are especially severe in highly-congested areas due to narrow roads, with the congestion blamed on the usage of mini buses, some of them flouting traffic laws as they flee from baton-wielding police officers out to smash their windscreens for a variety of transgressions.

Commuter omnibus drivers cause accidents due to their disregard of basic road rules like parking at undesignated points, turning in-front of oncoming traffic and speeding.

And where there is congestion, there is usually heavy smoke emitted from vehicles into the air, a development that is harmful to health and has negative effects on the environment.

Pollution due to vehicle emission and traffic accidents have become endemic, with proposals to restrict the growth of kombi ownership in urban areas or ban them altogether.

The majority of Zimbabweans do not own private cars. They use public transport to travel long distances.

The informal minibus-taxi industry is, for the most part, unsafe, overcrowded, unreliable, expensive and run by operators who will at times, literally, kill their competition in order to keep their routes and licences.

The vast majority use commuter omnibuses because they have no other choice.

They cannot afford the transport, public or private, that they would prefer.

Many are complaining that they are wasting time in the traffic, a move that impacts negatively on the economy.

During yesterday’s late afternoon rush hour, kombis were as usual parked at undesignated areas, colloquially known as “mushikashika.”

Along Sam Nujoma, kombis to Mt Darwin and Bindura were literally blocking traffic.

Police officers were not paying much attention to the chaos created by the kombis.

Private vehicles turned into commuter taxis were also blocking the road along Leopold Takawira Street, the road that heads to Avondale.

A number of people have been killed on the roads due to the kombi menace. Tanatswa Neil Mutyora, 4, was in April run over by a commuter omnibus driver fleeing from police.

Obert Mpofu, the minister of Transport,  has announced a ban on kombis, an announcement met with disbelief by kombi drivers.

He said the proposal to phase out kombis was outlined in the National Transport Policy.

Gift Madakuenda, 27, a kombi driver who plies the City-Kambuzuma route, said: “It does not make sense, how will we survive?

“This is our only source of livelihood and I am not sure government would be able to pull something big like that.

“Government does not have buses or the capacity to provide them.”

However, Mpofu suggests replacing the kombis with high-volume buses operated by a limited number of private players.

But Jimmy Jongwe, a kombi driver, said bringing in buses could be worse for customers.

“As far as I am concerned, bringing in buses is wishful thinking,” he said.

“Remember Zupco came and it failed. Those who travelled on Zupco buses remember that they were not efficient. People would wait more than two hours before boarding the bus. Kombis are reliable.”

Kombi drivers have been accused of being reckless and killing passengers due to speeding.

But the drivers rejected the accusation.

“Accidents happen, that is why they are called such,” he said.

“Along Seke Road, Chawasarira buses were involved in accidents just like our kombis.”  

Chris Chipikiri, 34, a driver who plies the City-Chitungwiza route everyday, said many rely on  commuter omnibuses.

“Kombis make people survive, from its own staff to the fuel station where we buy fuel to the Vehicle Inspection Department, VID, to the police that feed on us,” he said.

“This is the only industry we know, we will not be employed elsewhere.”

Mpofu says the new buses will significantly reduce bus fares.

Over 4 550 individuals are registered as commuter omnibus owners in the capital, according to the City of Harare’s recent department of Urban Planning Report.

“What is total empowerment of the people when this millionaire minister is saying this?” Chipikiri said.

“Maybe he wants to buy his buses and put them on the road. Why does he want to tamper with our livelihoods?”

Another driver at Fourth Street Bus Terminus said Mpofu was right to do away with kombis.

Tatenda Munjanja, 39, said, “We are having sleepless nights with these kombis because we are not making enough money due to the police and council.

“They demand money from us and we basically work for them. Kombis should be banned and we’ll see what will happen.”

Some drivers hoped that they would be allowed to operate alongside the buses to create healthy competition. They said competition would determine who stays on the road.

Comments (19)

Its mischievous to align the banning of combis with Min. Mpofu. This is a decision made way back in 2003 in a National Transport Policy serminar that lasted one week. The Minister then was Mushowe, his deputy was Andrew Langa, and the PS in the Ministry of Transport was Kaseke. All transport stake holders were represented and the current mess with combis was envisaged then. It was then decided to ban the 16 seat combis in preference to 25+ seat busses. That this decision was never enforced is a result of populist policies meant to appease certain sections of society and not the well being of the generality of the population. Its therefore not fair to make this a Mpofu issue when in fact it is a government issue. Your reporting must be fair.

SHIBHOBHO - 3 June 2014

Mpofu said he is going to ban kombis. He said it just yesterday. If it was made in 2003, why then was it not implemented? We can only talk of what we have heard yesterday. We dont care about what was said 11 years ago. A boy who was only 10 then is probably a kombi driver now and you want to tell him about Mushohwe now and exornerate the big thief Mpofu?

Tongogara weChachacha - 3 June 2014

To align Mpofu with the ban is appropriate. He now occupies the office and i believe he had the authority to reverse the proclamation if he derired. Hence the daily news is appropriate when they attribute the banning kombis with Mpofu.

mthikay - 3 June 2014

Don't defend the undefendable. Min Mpofu was very clear about banning the kombis, see Sunday Mail newspaper of 01 June 2014 headline.Typical ZANU PF apologists want to defend rubbish.

DAMBAKUREVA - 3 June 2014

Don't defend the undefendable. Min Mpofu was very clear about banning the kombis, see Sunday Mail newspaper of 01 June 2014 headline.Typical ZANU PF apologists want to defend rubbish.

DAMBAKUREVA - 3 June 2014

its so sad that coz of our inefficient pf, which has failed to improve the country's transport infrastructure for almost half a century now; who have failed to provide jobs to the masses; who are claiming to be champions of indigenisation, now want to ban kombis..Look at S.Africa, they have better roads, transport systems, they still use kombis...the sector in zim is employing abt 75000, a quarter of the civil service & u want to put all those people out of employment...revisit the policy..think the menace of the kombis has to do with corrupt officials, regulate the roads, enforce rules, find ways of taxing the industry & it will contribute to the economy...these guys vakangofanana neboys reku siyaso, vari kuda kuraramawo....and mind you anything private in zimbabwe involves foreign investors or the top politicians, so why sacrifice a 1000 for a hundred few....manyanya....dzikamai

mwanawevhu - 3 June 2014

My worry is we hear Obert Mpofu owns the Metro Bus now plying St marys route so he is an interesting part. Now to say we will ban kombis now is a dream. They just have to control them but because most are owned by the police the control is a problem. Else I don't see how they can fail. Simple, just round up the rogue kombis and just send them to the crusher never to come back pn the road and I tell you in 1 week the jungle will be tamed. But the problem is our brothers in police force will die of hunger because flouting rules is good for the police.

wamaromo - 3 June 2014

Just dont repeat MURAMBATSVINA! If you want to ban combis, fine and even better but FIRST BRING IN THE BUSES AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE ENOUGH. For once build first then destroy later.

kitsi - 3 June 2014

Government has no money to implement BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system like all major metro cities around the world are doing. Cape Town for example is paying +/- R300K to the taxi owner to cancel your permit & put the combi off the road. We would like that to happen in Zim so that people won't lose their valuable investments & livelyhoods

cheddarboy - 3 June 2014

What Mpofu is trying to implemen\t is non starter. Juss imagine the how much these kombis are they contributing torwards our economy through Zinara tallgates, the permit and radio licence and fee export duty through ZIMRA, guys is this not cancer in our economy. why not sit down and revise your mind against the socio economy of the country. Let we not be good at lambasting things to the detriment of the country. Pliz do something, alse!!!!

Ngodza Power - 4 June 2014

personality i dnt blame kombis bt the issue is two way. 1. corrupt behaviour in this country haas made the law a phrase that is scary kune vasingade kutonyora.2. the country has be stagnant in developments comparing the diversity and dynamism of things, i think by now roads should have been quadrilised or even having multipe flyover roads bt well all we see is depatching of potholes. population is arithmetically increasing yet kombis are responding talk about ex-japs so dnt ban kombis gadzirai nyika otherwise you will end up banning all open truck then all two wheel drives up until you will ban all non state vehicles.

adriel - 4 June 2014

While Kombis play a very efficient and reliable role in transport, what is required is continuous and rigorous training of Kombi drivers by the CMED on road manners and courtesy. The Police and City Council seem to be giving a blind eye to this mayham, especially along Sam Mujoma (2nd street) near the old Terreskane Hotel. Its chaos which will soon be uncontrollable. If the police continue their sloppy attitude they will soon be beaten up the Kombi crews just like what happened by the VaPostori recently where authority of the Law enforcement agents and road rules are ignored with utter disdain, disrespect and reckless abandon.

Kambiri - 4 June 2014

Public safety first, road rules are not being followed to meet targets thus endangering peoples lives. A bus system will bring order to the city, and revenue will be collected, change the name of the parastatal for restoration of confidence, dont for God's sake call it zupco. Going into other countries on the matter, you will note that they have an efficient bus system, we have a ministry of transport, this is its area of concern, whatever is on the table must be implemented so that lives are not lost and people are not seriously injured. Most kombis are in bad condition, are unroadworthy and yet speed up like like tube trains beyond the prohibited yellow line and you begin to wonder kuti ko zviri kumbofamba sei muZimbabwe, its a jungle not only in the city centre but also on highways to be more precise.

tichaona - 4 June 2014

I will not waste my time suggesting many solutions that can contribute much to restoration of sanity in Kombis because our ministers know it all. BUT a few words to the minister Operators of the buses or Trains you wish to introduce must not be given authority by any organ of the gvt or city council - Free market economy minister! I know we are very corrupt but having to be granted permission by you despite meeting set requirements shouts corruption too loud! ngatinyarei please 2. List the various measures you are implementing to curb the situation and implement one by one starting with the least costly and least complex. Introduce the buses first before removing the Kombis. Gvt must lead in doing its part, you talk of a road around the CBD, start with that and we see your unselfish commitment. Who knows ..that alone might be adequate to solve the real issue I repeat, free market economy....I should just meet the general transport requirements to be in business. Never shall an investor with the buses that are fit for the road have to convince a individuals or teams abt his business. its my business, funded with my money. I dont need you to evaluate my business. just inspect the bus and I'm good to go!! and oh, one last thing. The issue is congestion i believe...hammer your points more the real issue, zvekuti cheaper transport etc are what they call by products in english. They are obviously good but should not be yo strong points.

Guest - 4 June 2014

I totally agree with Tichaona, we need sanity back on our city roads and highways. A new transport system is long overdue. The current scenario is pathetic to say the least. You have a regulation that stipulates that most of these #omnibuses carry a maximum of 15 passengers, but they don't give a damn. They would rather carry 20 people, and travel at more than 100Km/hr as opposed to a maximum speed limit of 80Km/hr. With this cancer of buying Licences at the VID, most of the drivers on roads do not know how to behave in certain situations. The walking pedestrian on the street is also disregarded as a road user. You find that at a Give Way, pedestrian crossing or robot junction, the pedestrian is practically told to get off the road and let the boys on four wheels pass. This is a total disregard of the law. The Police know these problems however they take advantage, make a killing daily, through bribes as well as generating Cash for themselves the #ZRP. The law #ZRP enforcement officers should take the responsibility of only highway patrols as well as catching bad guys; they should leave all traffic concerns in the metropolitan areas to the relevant authorities of those cities and towns.

Zuruvi - 4 June 2014

Punitive and Severer fines must also be introduced so to discourage bad road and traffic behaviour. If someone is found on the wrong side of and law or regulation; they should pay in full. This should be conducted without fear or favour, because nobody is above the law, simple. When you commit a Traffic offense, then you Licence should indicate that offence and you should be penalised, and points taken from Licence. When you incur a certain number of points which constitute you to be an unworthy driver, then you don`t deserve the Licence, which will subsequently be cancelled by the relevant Govt. authority. If your vehicle is not road worthy it should surely be removed off the road until it has complied with the law. Let us also attract investments to the effect of assembling our own vehicles in Zimbabwe rather than importing second hand cars from Japan and Asia. That is why you see in South Africa you do not see any Ex-Japanese on their roads. They know that these cars are a menace, just look at the cars in Harare`s CBD alone! It's like these cars are being given for free. Let's stop the rot and throw away the junk before they kill us all. Viva to a new beginning, we have to act now.

Zuruvi - 4 June 2014

Some of you guys are blinkered We all need sanity in Kombis. But minister's approach does not bring sanity. It only discriminates who run the buses. some of you blame it on Buying licences ku VID...minister did not propose anything to control that. Mumwe ati we need stiff penalties - I guess he is forgeting that the available penalties is not the issue. Corruption is. Stiffer penalties only fuel more corruption. it means a driver jus have to pay more for cut yampurisa. This Kombi issue is a serious issue that require logical approach. Lets not be clouded to just look at phasing out Kombis without looking at how best this can be done. someone is talking of ZUPCO when it was clearly mentioned that the bus operators will be private players "approved" by the ministry. Ndochii ichocho?

Ndini Guest - 4 June 2014

Kutenga license - deal with VID Unroad worth Kombis - deal with VID Congestion - Exapnd the road networks, designate more ranking points. Reckless Driving - Deal with police who are not enforcing the available and arguably adequate laws. But guess what...a corrupt guy doesnt wana deal with corruption (VID & Police). Gvt doesnt wana expand road networks. Almost the same roads we had in 1980 when zim had 10 000 cars are the same roads we stil have with 100 times more cars. We are too lazy to expand the roads...and yah airport road (10km) took 5 years and stil not completed. Someone tell me how did the so calles Metro got to be the pilot project? how did the minister approach the private company? why not publish it and we go for tender for the pilot project? Its his buses. period!

Ndini Guest - 4 June 2014

banning combis will bring us back to vending issues since we are increasing unemployment .. the issue of kombis should be investigated properly because we may try to deal with the secondary factors leaving the primary ones .. what is causing the mushika shika .. is the main aspect here kombi drivers are trying to escape the unnecessary charges by touts and redtape. That should be dealt with first the secondary issues

rue - 18 October 2017

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