By Nqobile Tshili
A kombi driver was banned for life from driving and sentenced to a year in jail after he was convicted of picking passengers at an undesignated spot in Bulawayo.
Bulawayo magistrate Mr Tinashe Tashaya convicted Frank Ndebele, a repeat offender, for failing to display front and rear number plates and picking passengers at an undesignated area.
A first time offender, Mduduzi Ndlovu, got away with a $30 fine before the same court.
Police arrested Ndebele while he was picking passengers along the 6th Avenue Extension and Lobengula Street, with the registration plates of his car covered up.
Mr Tashaya on July 7, fined him $100 or 20 days in prison for failing to display number plates.
He further sentenced Ndebele to 12 months in prison for picking passengers at an undesignated place and banned him from driving for the rest of his life.
The Chronicle could not access the court papers for the case under file 134/07/17.
The sentence has evoked mixed reactions from the public and police, the former saying it was too harsh while the latter welcomed it.
Bulawayo police spokesperson Inspector Precious Simango lauded the judiciary for sending a stern warning to kombi crews saying deterrent sentences can bring law and order on the city’s roads.
“We’ve had numerous operations against kombi crews picking passengers in areas such as 6th Avenue and Lobengula Street but our efforts become unsuccessful as the kombi crews will just pay a fine and return to pick passengers as if nothing had happened,” said Insp Simango.
“But now that the magistrate has imposed a deterrent sentence and banned the driver from driving, it is very encouraging. This should be a warning not just to drivers but employers as well.”
She said the police will continue arresting errant kombi crews who do not abide by city’s by-laws.
“We are not targeting kombi crews operating along 6th Avenue only but even pirating private vehicles. Some of the areas of concern include Fort 11 Flea Market and Fort Street, where passengers are picked illegally,” she said.
Kombi crews operating at the 6th Avenue spot said the court was too harsh in banning Ndebele from driving.
“They imprison him for a year and ban him from driving. This seems like double punishment. After imprisoning him why ban him from driving?” quizzed one Mthokozisi who also operates along 6th Avenue.
A driver who declined to be named said it was economically unviable for them to pick passengers at Basch Street Terminus, also known as Egodini, as clients were shunning the area.
“Even if we are to leave this area, the Honda Fit pirate taxis will take over. They have taken a lot of our business yet they don’t pay taxes.
“Actually this place is even safe for our customers who fear going to Egodini saying they risk being mugged as it’s dark especially at night,” said the driver.
The crews said the cat and mouse game they have been accustomed to will continue as they will risk being banned from driving instead of having their kids starve.
“After all some of the Honda Fit pirates that are taking over are owned by the police. We work for them. Some of these kombis are theirs. We don’t cover up number plates because we want to commit crimes but we are just evading the city council which is always pressing hard for us to stop using these undesignated points,” said another driver who identified himself as Mr Ndlovu. The Chronicle