Multimedia: The Writing is on the Kombi

Zimbabwe’s commuter omnibus crews- mahwindi nemadriver avo -are probably among the most fascinating and unique groups.

Report by Tapiwa Zivira, Online Reporter.

They develop their own lingua franca which is sometimes assimilated into the mainstream language by the general members of society, that is, those who use commuter omnibuses to travel to and from work daily.

Gudo muriwo, A baboon gives good meat. Picture by Aaron Ufumeli
Gudo muriwo, A baboon gives good meat.
Picture by Aaron Ufumeli

Words like ‘shura’ to mean many commuters, ‘yadya basa’ to mean the bus is full, and ‘PaKadoma’ meaning the middle of the bus, are among the slang words developed by the crews and have eventually been adopted by society.

Hwindis, best described as people who live on the edge, ready to do anything- include breaking the law- to get an extra passenger, are loathed by some yet loved by others.

A message to the siblings and parents. Picture by Aaron Ufumeli
A message to the siblings and parents.
Picture by Aaron Ufumeli

They can flout road rules, drop off passengers before they reach destination, yet they can be some of the kindest people when it comes to helping out passengers in need of assistance and generating social debates with passengers.

It is a love- hate relationship between commuter crews and commuters. Some members of the society pigeon-hole hwindis as filthy, reckless and foul-mouthed societal deviants, but others see them just as they are, a mixed group of people brought together by the common cause of transporting people from one point to another.

It is a love-hate relationship between the kombi crew and the commuter[/caption]

But perhaps the most provocative aspect in the life of commuter omnibus crews is the way their coaches are inscribed with messages, maxims and names that denote various social, economic and political aspects of our society.

Thomas Mapfumo has a very political album by that name. Picture by Hardlife Samuwi
Thomas Mapfumo has a very political album by that name.
Picture by Hardlife Samuwi

This not only makes the commuter omnibus a chief societal straw in the wind, but also a crucial point of social commentary.

Newsday crew went around Harare City Centre and witnessed minibuses adorned with colorful banners inscribed with thought provoking phrases and messages such as ‘Asiagate’, after the infamous local football scandal, ‘Sean Timba’ after Sulumani Chimbetu’s popular song, and ‘Scandal!’, probably after the popular South African TV soap.

Koromkwata!, a nasty fall, but why ask Adhiro? Picture by Hardlife Samuwi
Koromkwata!, a nasty fall, but why ask Adhiro?
Picture by Hardlife Samuwi

Those who were there in the era of the attack on the United States twin towers can remember seeing kombis that were inscribed ‘9/11’, ‘Terrorist’, ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’ or ‘Osama Bin Laden’

In Zimbabwe, a majority of people follow or support soccer so, some kombis are have banners of prominent soccer players, trending local and international soccer teams, or popular team names and mottoes.

So who are the  older bosses, K's?
So who are the older bosses, K’s?

Others are more religious, and inscribe bible verses and quotes on their kombis while for some; inspiration comes from the trending music like “Gochi- Gochi” after Jah Prayzah’s hit song, or ‘Haulume’ after Josephat Somanje’s hit song.

For those that are religious, the messages vary from quotes taken from bible verses to ordinary religious names and messages. Usually for the religious, the messages have to do with how the minibus owners live their life, or how they got to acquire their buses.

But in some cases the messages are generic, applying to all who might need divine words at any point in life.

Divine. Picture by Hardlife Samuwi
Picture by Hardlife Samuwi

Some of the inscriptions are just plain comic, a role that cannot be underestimated in a country that has a population burdened by an underperforming economy and political uncertainty.

Funny phrases like “Gudo muriwo,” which means a baboon makes edible meat, and Koromkwata, a term that mockingly describes an unprecedented fall, are common.

Even the Americans would be happy to see their slang pasted on a kombi at Harare's market square. Picture by Hardlife Samuwi
Even the Americans would be happy to see their slang pasted on a kombi at Harare’s market square.
Picture by Hardlife Samuwi

The kombi crews even have the time to make fun out of their running battles with the traffic police as some banners like “Officer veMboma” (The officer with the sjambok) can confirm.

Traffic police have resorted to smashing windscreens of minibuses reportedly to enforce order in the city.

AS if celebrating the bravery of going through a police roadblock, the inscription on the back is Fortune Favours the Brave.
AS if celebrating the bravery of going through a police roadblock, the inscription on the back is Fortune Favours the Brave.

When asked who generates the inscriptions, some kombi crews said it is the minibus owners who are inspired by personal experiences, beliefs and values.

Some said the minibus owners have nothing to do with the banners on their kombis as they leave all the work to their employees.

Indeed, Labour conquer (sic) everything.
Indeed, Labour conquer (sic) everything.

Despite all this, the banners on minibuses remain something that drives the daily life of Zimbabweans and sometimes provides laughter where it is needed, spiritual messages where they are needed, or social commentary on the wrongs and rights in our society.

A spiritual message for the downtrodden
A spiritual message for the downtrodden

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  1. Ah zvipiko . They kill pedestrians vachitiza ZRP and they get support 4rm da public .psychological journals has it that behavior yemahWINDI is typical of the antisocial personality disorder . That means chirwere kuva nehunhu hwema hwindi and

  2. in as much as they can be fun they need to be nipped in the bud. They are so ruthless and disrespective of young women. They are the ones who set the rule that young girls can not wear anything they want without fearing being violated. we want the glorius days of ZUPCO organised and systemised.!!!!

    1. 4get&smile about ZVIPIKO,,,,,hahahahaha varungu ndivo vagina kurongedza zvinhu kwete mabhoyi anongoti bhora mberi achiuraya nyika…..siyana namahwindi tanga nepolice yacho isina kurongeka

  3. sihle vanhu vaya vari bhoo bt u downgrade them bt if u respect them they respect u also

  4. bingo wajakata

    Vakwandari, you have spoilt my day! Was going to send this to my daughter who is far away from home but thanks to you and your poor up bringing which encourages you to say vulgar language at every opportunity I cannot. Whats up with you, you did not have parents to teach you our culture and respect or you were brought up by ZANU PF? Have a nice day.

  5. zvakabvira kare,kumamisha uko imbwa chaidzo dzaingotumidzwa mazita anoreva zvakasiyana,tabva paimbwa takaenda pangoro ikozvino tavapamota nevahu

  6. Angihloniphi amahwindi . They dnt deserve respect till they learn to respect human lives . Ungadhuma munhu nekombi wotiza n some literate mister says vari bhoo .

  7. Mahwindi anozvarwa nani? Ndiye munhu ane prob haarairi vana vake.

  8. aaah!Mahwindi here?kunyangovazama hapana pundutso.bvunzai police inokuudzai kuti vanhu ava vatojaira kurarama zvejende chaizvo

  9. bandauko renzou

    Nhai zanu pf yapinda papi apa .vamwe vanhu lack education and reasoning

    1. Iwe Mfanha inonzi ZANPH Not Zanu pf

  10. Voetsak ne mazipoyo ana mbuya venyu vana vemahure!!!!

    1. Sorry ndati mazipoto zvimota zvenyu

  11. Zanph inopinda pakuti vana vema nyasarandi 98% therefore vana vana vamgabe ana Matibili ko ndiyani ane picture yake ari naked yakapublishiwa pa whatsapp timboonawo from grace”s point of view!!

  12. Saka Dracula ndiye ano testa hu ngochani here come on line iwe zi Dracula long time no ku tukana newe shit shit bastard yemunhu

  13. Manyasarandi akwana kwana papi, muna tikwanira.

  14. Bingo Wajakata zanu yapinda papi apa uri dako

    1. Zanu Ph Ndimi alfa and omega ye ma 1 ese ekushupika ne humboko hwe Zimbabwe iwe zimwana re ma hure 10000 % inflation sick yama pa nyika mai swirisa nana Gono …gonorear unoiziva here you cunt!!!!!!

  15. Mese ma zanu muchamama mashit iye manje Mugabz wenyu mamuona here chave chimkuyu chisina basa rese chaka svirwa nema British chikazo kandwa kuma china vava kuchi user futi mai weee chihure mashona nana Mugabe vekwa banda

    1. The tragedy of Zim is not understood by many . The truth of who is who or which villain did what is only told on one side of the 2 liberation camps .We as the hosts to the two sides up until Chitepos assassination know the real baddies.Samora had his own agenda and played it out with the British and make no mistake there was a real and definite sellout see us on if you want the truth! Beware that Mugabe of yours !!!

  16. police is the main problem here they are busy fighting with comb driver yet they are robbers all and murderers all over the country but they are leaving them . the Zimbabwean police are full of corruption in their heads . they go on road blocks for the benefit of their families and their pockets not for the country . look at how happy they are if they are appointed for transport department and how angry they are if they are appointed for investigation of theft in nearby hoods . they stop combs on road block and the driver go to them to pay tribute not find,they don’t even go to the vehicle to see the crime ” i don’t really know kuti they see the vehicle fitness on the face of the driver or conductor here kana kuti . after all if you go to the police in order to report the case of theft or violence which occurred in your hood they could come after 30 hours but when it becomes to road block , they will be in the road by 3am in the morning sometimes 24/7 non-stop
    your angry Zimbabwean

  17. Peace peace peace, please

  18. ol those whu critisize ZANU mavakuita mutserendende parazor manje, kupinda mumba men’anga neshangu. Takuzoshanda imi manje, 1 day yu wil regret

  19. pamberi nava Mugabe, ne Zanu PF, nekudzorera ivhu kuvatema, neindigenisation. vashandi vemakombi ngavawane mashares pamaroadblock. chiokomuhomwe chawandisa. watchout

  20. Mahwindi we are here to stay.police ndiyo ichatodzokera kumusha. HIACE goes first. Problem vamwe office dzedu dziri muroad

  21. Munofunga kuti murikutorera mahwindi mari asi munenge muchitorera vabereki. One one mari is here to stay

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