By Felex Share
HARARE- Acute transport problems left hundreds of commuters stranded in Harare yesterday when a joint council and police blitz on kombis and vendors got underway.
Heavy police presence at drop-off and pick-up points in the city and roads leading into the city centre forced most commuter omnibus operators to withdraw their services.
Some kombi crews were dropping off passengers on the outskirts of the city, forcing them to walk long distances into the Central Business District. The operation is aimed at decongesting the CBD.
Kombis without proper documents were not allowed into town, while most of them were impounded. Those with proper documents cashed in on the situation and increased fares to between US$1 and US$2, up from US$0,50 per trip.
In the morning, hundreds of commuters had to walk to their respective workplaces after being dropped off several kilometres from their usual ranks and terminuses. The situation was worse after working hours.
Buses from Budiriro, Glen View, Glen Norah, Southerton and Highfield were dropping off commuters several kilometres away from the CBD to evade the police.
Those from such eastern suburbs as Ruwa, Zimre Park and Msasa were being dropped off at the VID depot along Robert Mugabe Road, while those from western suburbs were dumped at the Exhibition Park along Samora Machel Avenue. Commuters said the operation was inconveniencing them.
“How can someone walk from the Exhibition Park up to Fourth Street? They are just being inhumane. It’s so stressful to the elderly and the physically challenged,” said Mrs Tamari Chinyoka of Warren Park.
“After walking that long distance, you are forced to pay US$2 as bus fare.” Others said while the city was now decongested, a solution beneficiary to both parties was needed. “To us, this is operation Fambai Netsoka. We end up hating the operation because we are the victims,” said another passenger.
“While it is noble to decongest the city, passengers should not be sacrificed.” Kombi operators dismissed the blitz as a fundraising gimmick. They said instead of confrontation, they were willing to talk with the police and city officials.
“Police expectations are unrealistic. There are more than 27 items which we should adhere to,” said Mr Benjamin Mugombi, a kombi operator. “Most school-leavers are employed in the transport sector and it would be disastrous to push them out of business.”
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau said: “We are not going back. We don’t want to endanger people’s lives. As for those overcharging, people should refuse to pay and if you are dropped off out of town demand your money back.”
Council spokesperson Mr Leslie Gwindi appealed to the public to effect a “citizen’s arrest” on errant commuter omnibuses. “It is with the help of the public that we will be successful,” he said.
National Traffic police spokesperson Inspector Tigere Chigome added: “There are so-me operators who have proper documents, with their drivers having all the papers and this is what we want to see in town.” The Herald