Regularise pirate taxis, council urged Police and BCC officers intercept a pirate taxi in the city yesterday

Peter Matika, [email protected] 

THE ongoing blitz by Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and police against errant kombi and pirate taxi operators commonly known as “mushikashika” has created a transport crisis in the city.

As a result, commuters yesterday called on authorities to consider regularising the unregistered pirate taxi operators. 

BCC together with the police launched the operation against pirate taxis and kombis defying a directive to move to the upgraded Egodini bus terminus. 

The council wants to restore order in the city centre where pirate taxis and kombis are causing chaos by picking up and dropping off passengers at undesignated points, creating congestion in the central business district (CBD. 

The crackdown is part of efforts by BCC to tame lawlessness and restore sanity in the city centre. Of late, kombis and mushikashikas have been creating chaos and congestion in the CBD.

Municipal police and ZRP officers have since Monday been camped at popular undesignated pick-up and drop-off points across the city in a bid to stop the errant public transporters from using these illegal ranks. In interviews, some commuters said the crackdown has created transport challenges for routes in some eastern suburbs routes, which are only serviced by pirate taxis.

They implored authorities to consider regularising the pirate taxis in the wake of transport woes that have left many stranded during peak hours.

Since Tuesday commuters have been facing transport challenges as police and BCC continued to intensify the crackdown on unregulated public transport operators.

Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) chairman Mr Winos Dube said while the move by BCC to restore sanity in the CBD is necessary, it comes with undesirable consequences.

“In such issues, residents are the ones that are mostly affected at the end of the day. In this case, people are  protesting against the standards that are required to eradicate lawlessness in the city,” he said.

“When the Egodini project was launched we had anticipated and hoped for order. But now we are experiencing problems characterised by transport shortages.”

Mr Dube said residents are calling for a round table meeting between BCC and leaders of taxi associations to map a way forward.

“Pirate taxis are also an interested party in the transport sector because, in some suburbs, residents rely on them for transport. Authorities must also try and engage them to regularise their operations,” he said. “These pirate taxi operators also pose a danger to human life as they are always speeding whenever they encounter police. They should be registered in terms of the law and offered places of operation.”

Bulawayo mayor Councillor David Coltart said the local authority is not opposed to registering pirate taxis as long as they abide by the law.

“If there are public entities interested in operating in the transport sector they have to apply and follow the necessary channels. This is done to protect the people from harm, as most of these taxis are driven by unlicensed individuals,” he said.

“They need to be properly licensed and go through a vetting system. We cannot, as a city, have an unregulated system that causes chaos and mayhem.”

The worst affected commuters are those from the city’s northern and eastern suburbs which are only serviced by pirate taxis.

Commuters in the affected areas said BCC should allow pirate taxis to operate on those routes to ease transport challenges in the city.

“We have always urged the council to liberalise the transport industry so that people can choose what they want to use. People are mature enough to choose for themselves what they want to board,” said Mr Kingston Dube of Hillside suburb.

Another resident, Mr Zibusiso Siziba said since the operation began, they are now forced to wait for transport for long hours and delaying to go to work.

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“As residents, we are disappointed with this uncalculated move by the council. We are supposed to have freedom of choice. We are always late for work because we wait longer for transport,” he said. 

A Honda Fit driver, who plies the Matopos road route, Mr Dumani Ndhlovu said they are willing to cooperate with police and BCC for them to regularise their operations.

“The reason why you find there is so much resistance is because of how they approach us. They are always after us and demand bribes and we pay them to let us operate,” he said.

 “They should engage us so that we can agree on how we should operate and be allocated space an area to operate from.”

Another pirate taxi operator who only identified himself as Kuda said: “If they knew that this was their plan they would have engaged us stage by stage and none of this would be happening.” 

The Road Motor Transportation Act [Chapter 13:15] provides for the licensing, registration and regulation of passenger and freight transport operators. 

In addition, the Public Service Vehicle Regulations prescribed in Statutory Instrument 134 of 1998 provide for the standards that are essential for the safe operation of public service vehicles. 

Transport and Infrastructural Development Minister Felix Mhona recently said due to challenges in the movement of people as a result of the reduction in the national bus fleet, and rapid urbanisation, Government introduced duty exemption on the importation of new buses into the country.

He said this was meant to address transport challenges and increase the use of mass transport systems, particularly in urban areas.

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