By Vusumuzi Dube
Motorists who engage illegal car wash agents that operate within parking zones in Bulawayo’s Central Business District risk having their vehicles impounded by the local authority as this violates a number of council by-laws.
In the past few years, there has been a rise of enterprising street kids and adults that operate illegal car washing activities at some of the city’s parking areas where they charge between US$3 and US$5 per vehicle.
However, it has since emerged that while the act is illegal as per the city by-laws, motorists could find themselves on the losing side as the local authority is not only mandated to ticket the vehicles but they also impound and tow away the vehicle even for first offenders. The vehicle owner will then be required to pay the fine as well as storage fees to recover the vehicle.
Responding to questions from Sunday News, Bulawayo City Council corporate communications manager, Mrs Nesisa Mpofu said the act by the car washers violated the roads and street by-laws as well as the clamping and tow away by-laws.
“As per the city by-laws a road is designated for trafficking of vehicles. The by-laws state that no one must block a road or a pavement. The parking space is part of the road and is strictly for parking and not car washes. For such activities we do both ticketing as well as impounding and tow-away of the vehicle,” said Mrs Mpofu.
Questioned on how many vehicles had been impounded for this illegal act since the beginning of the year and how much has been raised through ticketing, Mrs Mpofu said they were still going through their documents and will be able to advise in detail the amounts this week.
A Sunday News crew on Wednesday witnessed some vehicles being impounded along George Silundika between 8th and 9th Avenue by council security personnel, who said they have embarked on a blitz to curb the practice.
“What most vehicle owners do not realise is that they are the ones who are at the losing end because once we find a vehicle being washed at an illegal spot, we just take the vehicle because we do not have the arresting powers to arrest the people washing the cars,” said the council security official who declined to be named.
Sunday News spoke to a number of the illegal car wash individuals who insisted that they would continue their operations as this was the only means of survival they knew.
“What BCC does not realise is that not only are we providing car wash services but we are also providing security for these very vehicles, if they throw us out of business, it will be an early Christmas for thieves as they will break into these vehicles knowing very well that no one is monitoring them.
“Further, BCC must realise that there is no other form of employment out there other than the informal sector, factories are closed and those that are opened are operating at a minimal, which means if they close our trade, we will be rendered destitutes,” said one of the car washers who identified himself as Nkosi.
Another, Tendai Zhou who claimed to have been a street kid previously said the car wash business had managed to take him off the streets.
“This is the only trade I know, this brought me out of the streets so if they drive me out of business it’s as if they are driving me back to the streets,” said Mr Zhou. The Sunday News