Sanity prevailed in Harare yesterday as errant kombi and taxi drivers operating on illegal passenger pick-up points (mishikashika) heeded Harare City Council’s call for them to vacate the city.
This follows a council operation at the weekend that resulted in a 10-year-old girl being knocked down by a speeding commuter omnibus while seven municipal police officers were hospitalised following brutal attacks with weapons by touts and kombi crews on Sunday.
The touts and kombi crews were resisting Harare council’s bid to rid the city of unruly drivers and unregistered taxis.
The officers were attacked while enforcing traffic by-laws to clear mishikashika along Julius Nyerere Way.
Some illegal taxi operators yesterday said they were temporarily shelving operating on mishikashika as they could not risk having their vehicles impounded and also face the risk of imprisonment if apprehended.
The city’s acting corporate communications manager, Mr Michael Chideme, said council would not be deterred by the Sunday events and would continue with its policing activities.
“We will continue with our policing activities. We have started on a good note in terms of policing. We are going to intensify to ensure that we bring order to the city and smiles on the majority of Harare residents who want order in the city,” he said.
Mr Chideme said those injured during skirmishes between municipal police and errant commuter omnibus crews and hospitalised at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals were out of danger.
Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators secretary general, Mr Ngoni Katsvairo, said council should engage other stakeholders such as passengers in dealing with mishikashika.
“Council should engage stakeholders such as associations, Traffic Safety Council, and ZRP to sustainably eradicate mishikashika and end corruption between uncompliant operators, touts and law enforcers.
“A holistic approach and laws that deal with all involved in the illegal mishikashika activities like touts, passengers and drivers are needed. Council must not punish operators only while leaving the other players,” he said.
He said sustained publicity targeting passengers about the dangers of using pirate taxis and kombis was important.
Police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba, on Sunday, said 43 kombi crews and touts were arrested during the skirmishes.
Snr Asst Comm Charamba said the police would deal ruthlessly with kombi crews who caused chaos and endangered the lives of innocent people in the city.
“As the police, we are going to deal with these hooligans ruthlessly because we are there to maintain law and order in the country,” she said.
A taxi operator who identified himself as George said he would wait and study the situation first before going back to mishikashika.
“Council usually carries out such operations once so I don’t think they will continue. I will wait a bit before returning. I will not abandon this business because this is my only source of income.”
Another illegal taxi operator said they would operate during peak hours because traffic enforcement was usually low.
“We will go there during peak hours because municipal police will still be at their homes or on way to work and after hours when they go to their homes,” he said.
Harare City Council has been dominated by MDC-T councillors and during their decade tenure at the helm of the largest municipality in the country, they failed to clear illegal structures, deal with corruption and the menace of kombis and illegal vendors resulting in malcontents taking charge.