Leonard Ncube, Victoria Falls Reporter
PIRATE taxis better known as mshikashika have flooded roads in Victoria Falls where they illegally carry people without restriction.
There are no kombis in Victoria Falls as residents prefer smaller vehicles which they say are quicker.
Some years back there used to be some kombis which eventually stopped operating because few people boarded them as many either hired metered taxis or preferred smaller vehicles as they had disposable income from the tourism industry and could afford hiring taxis.
The same mentality has affected Zupco buses which now ply the rural Victoria Falls-Jambezi, Matetsi and Airport routes where they get more passengers than in the city, leaving Victoria Falls without sustainable Zupco services.
While there are hundreds of taxis competing for passengers, the presence of mshikashika taxis has threatened to push registered operators out of business as they do not use designated pick up points in town as they continuously run between routes for passengers.
Unlike in other urban areas where police and municipal authorities have been raiding and impounding pirate taxis as well as arresting touts, no known operation has been effected in Victoria Falls.
In other towns pirate taxi and kombi crews are notorious for teaming up to attack police while members of the public have fallen victim to robberies at the hands of people who masquerade as commuter service providers.
There are fears such criminal activities associated with mshikashika might end up infiltrating the tourism city and scare away tourists and clients.
Chronicle understands that a majority of mshikashika drivers are former tourism workers who have been rendered jobless due to the effects of Covid-19.
Some have turned to illegal money changing business at Sawanga Mall, OK car park and Comesa Market amid fraudulent elements where some members of the public have also been conned by criminal elements who pretend to be money changers as they advertise on social media and disappear with people’s money.
Chairman of the Victoria Falls Taxis Association Mr Victoria Mwembe said many of those taxis that were once registered are now operating illegally because owners cannot afford registration and licence fees amid low business.
He appealed to Government for waiver of some vehicle registration fees.
“People are desperate and looking for money which is why we have been appealing for exemption of some fees. As taxis association there is nothing we can do about the unregistered vehicles because a majority of vehicles here are not registered as people cannot afford to take their cars to VID or pay insurance fees. We had wished to get assistance from Government because it is not a secret that Victoria Falls was the hardest hit by Covid-19,” said Mr Mwembe.
Matabeleland North police spokesperson Inspector Glory Banda said police will continue to monitor activities on the country’s roads.
“Traffic police are committed to ensuring sanity prevails on our roads in the best interest of reducing road carnage and a host of other offences that bedevil our communities,” he said. — @ncubeleon