The battle for control of Harare’s lucrative commuter omnibus ranks by suspected Zanu PF youths has intensified with party activists engaging in brutal physical attacks.
Wilbert Zhakata, a Zanu PF supporter and national chairman of the Urban Transporters’ Association of Zimbabwe (Utaz), an unregistered outfit reportedly set up by Zanu PF youths to fleece kombi operators, was hospitalised last week after he was brutally attacked by a rival gang.
According to party youths who operate at the Harare Exhibition Park, Zhakata was attacked by the “bouncers” who assaulted him at the same place last month.
The suspects include Fanwell Deyera (42), Tatenda Seremani (29), Owen Joseph (38), Abraham Kwenda (29), Clyde Mutero (36) and Goodwell Mombeyarara who are out on bail after they were charged with kidnapping and assault. Some of them are said to have several pending cases before the courts and were out on bail until August 8 when they pounced again.
“Deyera used his BMW X5 vehicle to bring the gang that attacked Zhakata. It is the same vehicle the gang used again when they kidnapped and assaulted him,” said one of the youths, who refused to be named for security reasons.
Zhakata, who was discharged from Parirenyatwa Hospital yesterday, refused to comment referring all questions to police.
Party insiders believe Zhakata is paying the price for suggesting that Utaz must stop collecting money from kombi operators as he argued that this was tarnishing Zanu PF’s image.
Impeccable sources say the money collected from ranks is shared among the Utaz executive made up of Deyera and Tongai Nheta, who is in charge of the association’s security.
According to a July 17 letter to Milton Park Police Station by chief law officer Roderick Tokwe demanding a full investigation into the matter, the culprits reportedly boast that they cannot be arrested. A source said senior provincial party leaders were the biggest beneficiaries with some receiving as much as $7 000 per week.
Harare is estimated to have 8 000 commuter omnibuses, which ply the city routes and with average collections of $5 per kombi per day, the Zanu PF youths are possibly netting over $40 000 a day and an average of $1,2 million per month.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo has repeatedly denied the youths were sent by the party and that the money collected would find its way into the party coffers.
Besides taking over bus ranks, Zanu PF youths have also grabbed most market stalls in high-density suburbs, including Mbare and Highfield. At Machipisa shopping centre in Highfield, Zanu PF youths have invaded the taxi rank demanding $2 from every trip the drivers make.
Drivers are also required to pay $5 to register to use the taxi rank.
The youths also demand $10 for every bus from Beitbridge dropping passengers at the shopping centre, claiming they were representing Zanu PF.
But both Deyera and Kunaka denied any links to Utaz.
“But he (Zhakata) used to claim that he is a bouncer…anyway I am a provincial youth chairman and anyone who links me to Utaz needs to see a psychiatrist. I have businesses and am employed by the city council,” Kunaka said.
Last week, Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutsasa challenged Harare provincial chairman Amos Midzi to deal with Chipangano and all elements terrorising commuters and vendors.