Victor Maphosa-Mashonaland East Bureau
COLLUSION between officers manning toll gates and corrupt motorists has seen banned kombi and pirate taxi crews sneaking through boom gates without paying, prejudicing the Zimbabwe National Road Administration (Zinara) of the much-needed toll fees, The Herald can reveal.
The illicit practice, which is most pronounced at Dema toll gate along the Chitungwiza-Marondera road in Seke, is being done in full view of police officers.
They take advantage of motorists in front of them, who duly pay toll fees and are allowed to pass.
Before the boom gate closes, rogue elements will sneak through and drive off at high speed without paying.
Surprisingly, no reports have been officially made against the motorists who evade payment on several times daily.
The same errant motorists pass through the toll gate daily and no arrests have so far been made.
Zinara spokesperson Mr Tendai Mugabe referred all questions to the national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi.
“The police are the ones who enforce the law and we cannot comment on such cases,” said Mr Mugabe.
Asst Comm Nyathi said police will investigate the cases.
“We will engage the relevant police station to find out what is happening. If there is connivance, then definitely action will be taken,” he said.
At Skyline toll gate along Harare-Masvingo highway, pirate taxis popularly known as “mushikashika” queue at a side boom gate reserved for those with pre-payment proof and exemption certificates.
Once the gate opens for those on exemption, pirate taxis sneak through without payment.
Almost daily, the kombis, Toyota Wish, and Honda Fit vehicles fraudulently gain passage in full view of officials and police officers.
Since the announcement of the Covid-19 lockdown measure in 2020, kombis across the country were banned.
Unlike conventional buses which were allowed on several times to operate, when the measures were relaxed, kombis remained banned.
However, some kombi owners and operators have allowed their crew to operate, and there are allegations that they connive with corrupt police officers manning roadblocks, for free passage.
The alleged unholy alliance is derailing Government efforts to curb the spread of the virus.
The Herald observed that whenever the driver of a kombi is approaching the Dema Toll gate, they allow either a private vehicle or a haulage truck to be ahead allowing them to be behind the haulage truck or private vehicle.
Whenever a haulage truck driver pays a toll fee, and the gate opens to allow him to pass, but kombi and the mushikashika drivers take advantage of that and speed off without payment.
Observations made by The Herald revealed that almost all the kombis that ply the Chitungwiza-Hwedza or Chitungwiza-Marondera routes engage in this unlawful activity.
On September 4 this year around 3pm, a silver kombi ADZ 8001 inscribed “Remember Me” almost rammed into an Isuzu double cab at Dema Toll gate while rushing to pass through before the gate closes.
It passed without payment.
Asked to comment on the behaviour of the kombi driver, a female cashier at Dema had this to say: “We are tired of these kombi drivers. They do this always and we compile a list of the registration numbers of such vehicles daily. This counter book is almost full,” said the Zinara cashier.
On September 15 around 9am, this writer witnessed a Silver Toyota Hiace (AEU 8305) plying Chitungwiza-Hwedza route going through the same toll gate without paying.
At law, kombis ferrying passengers are supposed to pay US$3 or $246 to gain passage at toll gates.
These illegal kombis operating from Chitungwiza to Marondera and Hwedza pass through police checkpoints.
In most cases, these kombis pass through three or four roadblocks before getting into Marondera from Chitungwiza.
There is a road block which is sometimes mounted just near Ziko Business Centre and another one about half a kilometre before the tollgate.
Another roadblock is always mounted about a kilometre before the Dema Police Station.
In most incidents, kombis pass through these checkpoints without a hustle.
On several occasions, they are briefly stopped, and a chit chat between officers and kombi drivers is done and the crew is allowed passage.
But it is not always the case, as on some days, the crew would evade these road blocks especially when they allegedly realise that the officers manning the roadblocks on that particular day are not friendly. They will use gravel roads which pass through Mabika village.
Some evade the Dema tollgate and use a gravel road which will take them to Murape Primary School, a kilometre after the toll gate.
The police checkpoint which is hard to evade is the one near Dema police station.
However, this is not a hindrance to the illegal commuters as they always through, raising suspicion that they pay bribes.
“I always use these kombis to and from Hwedza, they are not stopped at roadblocks, vakomana ava vanongobvisa mari vopa police votopfuura,” said one of the passengers while talking to this writer in a Hwedza-bound kombi.
The commuter omnibus was stopped at Dema roadblock and true to the passenger’s word, it was allowed passage.