The tout has paid for damages now and on the policeman in question, I have made a police report and they say they are investigating the matter.”
REPORT BY MOSES MATENGA
Maqata, according to Nyanhongo, ordered a tout Trevor Musorosekwa to drag her driver out of her commuter omnibus along Fourth Street to give chase to an errant kombi driver.
This marked the beginning of an adventurous chase of a rogue kombi driver by an unlicensed tout that ended when the kombi hit a ridge in Msasa.
“I made a report at Rhodesville Police Station and they say they are investigating the case. The tout has paid for damages now and on the policeman in question, I have made a police report and they say they are investigating the matter,” Nyanhongo said.
Her case exposes what Harare commuters and residents have lived with for some time now in the central business district where the fights between the police and kombi drivers on one hand and that of municipal cops and vendors on the other have often ended fatally.
Recently, a mother of three who works in the city centre confessed that for four years, she has not brought her children to town for any business for fear of the menacing kombi drivers.
“I can’t take chances. It’s now a city of fights, if it is not the ZRP versus kombi drivers, it is the council police versus vendors’ fight. Whichever way, it is a problem of fights in the city,” she said.
As early as seven every morning, police officers armed with baton sticks stand at corners at every kombi rank in the city ready to pounce.
Their main targets are kombi drivers and taxi operators, particularly those plying the city-Avondale route along Leopold Takawira Street where near-fatal accidents take place almost every day.
In April last year, an elderly woman died after being knocked down by a kombi whose driver was fleeing from police near the Copacabana bus terminus in central Harare.
In December, a Tafara resident and war veteran Raphael Mbanje died at the corner of Chinhoyi and Bank Streets in downtown Harare and the accident saw Mbanje being killed instantly by the reversing kombi.
“A policeman approached the vehicle and smashed the windscreen with a baton stick. I heard a sound and the driver continued to reverse it and ran over the man once. People screamed and shouted and the kombi driver panicked and continued to drive, running over the man again and killing him on the spot,” said a witness then.
Only last week in Bulawayo, 16 commuters were injured after an accident, when a kombi was fleeing from police.
Inspector Mandlenkosi Moyo, the Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson, told our sister publication Southern Eye that the driver was under age and was speeding.
Witnesses said the police threw spikes in front of the moving kombi leading to the accident.
“After the kombi overturned, the police officers fled from the roadblock, but one of them was caught and beaten up by the public for endangering the lives of people just for a fine,” an eye witness said.
“It shows that these cops are not properly trained because they seem to equate human lives to money. The people in that kombi were just innocent residents going to work and for them to have a brush with death because of overzealous police officers is shocking. Whatever offence the kombi driver had committed does not justify the police reaction. People were injured and police won’t take the blame as usual.”
Simbarashe Moyo, Combined Harare Residents’ Association (CHRA) chairperson feels that the daily fights were the manifestation of the never-ending corruption where police have realised there was a honey-jar in the city centre.
While Moyo feels that way, Peter Musindo, a resident, said that the problem in the city was of the soliciting of bribes by both municipal police and the ZRP officers, causing the kombi drivers to flee instead of parting with lots of money.
Harare town clerk Tendai Mahachi recently told Parliament that of the 6 000 kombis in the city, more than 2 000 were not licensed properly, hence the fights.
What makes the fights even more dangerous is that there is too much congestion in the city and speeding under such can only cause accidents.
Over the weekend, police spokesperson Senior Assistant commissioner Charity Charamba said the law enforcement authority would take action against commuter operators who employ drivers who do not hold proper documentation, thereby putting the lives of ordinary citizens at risk.
She said the accident which occurred in Harare over the weekend was caused by an unlicensed driver who, in the process of running away from the police officers at a roadblock, was involved in an accident.
In February, police quickly denied they were to blame after two people who died during a police-kombi chase.
A kombi driver, Owen Chakurungana, said: “We go through roadblocks that are countless and we pay fines. It’s the same even in town where we’re chased around by the police. So it leaves us with no option, but to speed off so as to save the little money we make.”
To date, Harare City Council has undertaken a number of blitzes in conjunction with the police, but there is no tangible progress, except the fights that have contributed to deaths and injuries in the CBD.
Drivers say police are to blame for their never-ending demanding of bribes, while the police maintain they will only be doing their job.
But as the fights go on, it’s the commuter that continues to be endangered in an uncertain environment called the CBD.