By Kudzai Chikiwa
At Entumbane Complex in Bulawayo, at the traffic lights popularly known as ‘‘Emarobhothini”, is a hive of activity as people rush to board buses.
Some are getting into kombis while a group of youthful touts roam around the place.
In no time, a kombi comes and the touts rush towards it shouting their anthem “Hyper-Etown!” Just after loading the kombi, two youthful touts cling onto the moving vehicle for a distance before jumping off.
Though by definition the verb “tout” refers to “an attempt to sell (something), typically by a direct or persistent approach” which may largely refer to informal traders, the verb has been most commonly used for those in the transport sector.
Section 58 of the Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to cling onto moving vehicles but it appears that touts are ignorant of the law or as one of them said, they see no harm in what they do.
“There’s nothing bad about clinging onto a moving vehicle. It’s just for fun. We’ve been here for years doing this. Of course, there was an incident of one boy who fell off a moving kombi but he was not injured. It only becomes a problem when one is injured, dies or causes unnecessary inconvenience to other vehicles,” said one of the touts who identified himself as Khumz.
While Khumz believes that what they do is all fun, a kombi driver, Mr Gilbert Nyoni said touts who cling onto moving vehicles pose a danger to themselves and other motorists.
“This is very dangerous and police must deal with such behaviour. Let’s say for instance vehicle one is clinging onto engages emergency brakes, the person behind the vehicle might fall. This inconveniences the driver coming behind and if he panics or realises late, he can run over the person. So you can see that such irresponsible behaviour can cause unnecessary loss of life,” he said.
Mr Nyoni added that sometimes touts cling onto vehicles without the knowledge of the driver who may speed off unaware that someone is holding onto his vehicle.
“When they fall from the vehicle, the driver can’t be held accountable for that. It’s just reckless behaviour that no one condones. After all touting is illegal,” he said.
The Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) says about 90 percent of road accidents are a result of human error, with speeding and overtaking errors topping the list.
However, recently police and the TSCZ revealed that touts are becoming a menace to road safety as clinging onto moving vehicles is another contributing factor to accidents.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, revealed recently that police have arrested over 21 000 touts in cities and towns countrywide since the beginning of the year.
Speaking during a crime watch programme on national television, Asst Comm Nyathi said the police are intensifying the arrests to bring sanity on the roads.
“Since the beginning of this year we have arrested over 21 000 touts who have appeared in court and some have deposited fines as we invest in this operation. This operation will continue until there’s sanity on the roads,” he said.
The police spokesperson warned those who cling onto moving vehicles saying they are posing danger to themselves as well as other motorists. “We want to encourage members of the public to report anyone who moves around while clinging onto the doors of moving vehicles as this endangers life,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said there are reports of some farmers who sit precariously at the back of trucks loaded with tobacco bales.
“Let’s consider the safety of all the farmers before they start embarking on journeys. We’ve heard of some farmers becoming injured while the trucks are moving,” he said.
TSCZ acting director of operations, Mr Ernest Muchena said touts’ behaviour is suicidal and poses danger to the touts themselves and other motorists.
“Section 58 of the Road Traffic Act makes it an offence to hold onto a moving vehicle.The danger lies in that if the vehicle stops without any warning, the vehicle from behind can knock down the person clinging onto the moving vehicle and cause unnecessary loss of life. This affects the driver as well as passengers on board,” he said.
Mr Muchena urged members of the public and drivers to unite with councils and police in fighting this crime.
“Fighting crime is a collective responsibility. We’re appealing to transporters and drivers to ensure that they don’t have such people at the back of their vehicles. Members of the public should report such people indicating the registration number of the vehicle,” he said.
Mr Muchena said the TSCZ and police are engaging drivers and members of the public, educating them about the dangers of clinging on moving vehicles. The Chronicle