Bongani Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT should consider extending the suspension of operating licences to errant public transport operators who flout traffic rules and regulations by picking and dropping passengers at undesignated places in Bulawayo.
The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development recently suspended the operating licences of two Harare bus companies whose drivers were involved in reckless driving and speeding along the Harare-Nyamapanda Road leading to the death of one person.
The operating licences of Rimbi Tours and Zebra Kiss buses were suspended from operating on all routes across the country.
The two bus operators are understood to be responsible for a fatal road traffic accident last Tuesday in Mutoko District, along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway.
Bulawayo residents and public transporters have called for punitive measures to be taken on errant long-distance buses that continue to operate from illegal ranks in the city centre.
Many buses are using undesignated places to pick and drop passengers thereby causing chaos within the city centre.
It has become the norm to see long distance buses lined up along Harare Road, outside Eveline High School and the Centenary Park area along Leopold Takawira and Corner Fort Street and 8th Avenue.
Passengers have been seen boarding buses to Harare, Gweru, Masvingo, Beitbridge, South Africa and Victoria Falls from undesignated places.
The corner of Fort Street and Leopold Takawira Avenue, popularly known as Tredgold, is now a de facto bus rank for those travelling to Harare and other places along the Bulawayo-Harare Highway.
The illegal activities have been going on for some time with the Bulawayo City Council turning a blind eye.
Earlier this month, council announced that it was launching a blitz against illegal activities but has since suspended the operation following consultations with members of the security sector.
Police at times conduct raids arresting illegal vendors and touts but they return to their illegal operating places soon after release. When buses are impounded, they also return to the same undesignated pick up points soon after being released.
Yesterday, the illegal pick- up point opposite Eveline High School was a hive of activity as buses dropped and picked up passengers. The illegal rank is used by buses that travel to Masvingo, Zvishavane, Gwanda and Beitbridge. The buses tout for passengers as far as the Natural History Museum.
The Tower Block is just a stone’s throw away and the Central Police Station is just five streets away yet the illegal activities continue unabated. At Harare Road, near Carmel Primary School, there was a line of buses including Inter City, Pioneer and CAG also touting for passengers travelling to Gweru, Kadoma, Kwekwe and Harare. This is the most congested place yet there is a bus rank at Queens Sports Club and another one has been opened near Paddonhurst suburb.
Bulawayo Bus Operators Association chairperson Mr Patrick Dube said buses operating from illegal bus ranks are known by all and sundry and called for the immediate suspension of their operating licences.
“The suspension of the operators’ licences was a decisive move which sent a clear message to operators flouting traffic rules and regulations and the same should happen here,” said Mr Dube.
He said members of his association operate from Renkini, Entumbane Bus Terminus, Nkulumane Complex and Hamara.
“We operate under the confines of the law but these people are not,” said Mr Dube.
Bulawayo United Residents association chairperson Mr Winos Dube said to bring sanity to the city’s roads, Government must impound and suspend licences of buses operating from illegal ranks.
“The buses that are parking and picking up people at undesignated places such as at Centenary Park, must have their licences withdrawn like what happened to these two bus companies,” said Mr Dube.
Mr Dube said the continued closure of Basch Street Bus Terminus, popularly known as Egodini, was also the root cause of the chaos in the city centre.
“Can we please have our Egodini back so that transporters can have a place to operate from. This will bring order and sanity in the city centre,” said Mr Dube.
Registered public transporters such as Tshova Mubaiwa say those operating from the illegal ranks are stealing business from them.
“We’re working tirelessly to bring our house in order after the Covid-19 pandemic disruptions.
We urge the police to do their job and get rid of these illegal transporters on the streets. We’re losing out on business,” said Tshova Mubaiwa spokesperson Mr NdabaMabunda.
National Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said those who continue to flout the traffic rules and regulations must be reported to the police.
“We have said previously that we’re targeting drivers and now even operators are being punished,” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.
He said the law is very clear regarding pirate taxis picking and dropping passengers at undesignated places.
“Those people besides flouting traffic rules and regulations by picking and dropping passengers at undesginated places, have not permits which is another offence,” said Assistant Commissioner Nyathi.