HARARE CITY Council yesterday officially opened the Coventry Road holding bay for commuter omnibuses amid resistance from some kombi operators who felt the move would drive them out of business.
It emerged that more than 60% of kombis in Harare were operating illegally, while the same percentage of drivers were unlicensed.
But the local authority said the holding bay strategy would help sanitise the city centre and decongest the central business district that had become dangerous for pedestrians.
Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo, who was supposed to be the guest of honour, was conspicuous by his absence and so was his deputy Joel Biggie Matiza.
Foreign Affairs deputy minister Chris Mutsvangwa graced the occasion.
Council Environment Committee chairperson Chris Mbanga said: “60% of the kombis are not registered and 60% of the drivers are not licensed and we would want to stop this menace.”
Though the holding bay was officially opened, there was not much activity at the site as a few municipal officers could be seen milling around the dozens of kombis parked there. Toilets were by yesterday not yet completed, raising suspicion that the official opening yesterday might have been made to serve other motives.
Drivers and their conductors could be seen milling around and those interviewed said the holding bay was a threat to their source of livelihood and would not comply for longer.
Other stakeholders said there was no proper consultation from the city fathers on the matter, hence everything seemed to be in disarray.
In his speech, Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said council would soon find areas to set up holding bays to accommodate kombis from Chitungwiza and other areas.
“I would like to call upon residents to embrace this project, take it as their own and help decongest our city. We need to reclaim our streets and make them traffickable again,” he said.
“Our bus ranks need to retain their decency and be user-friendly, especially to our fashion-conscious young women who are harassed by touts who take advantage of the chaos caused by traffic congestion.”
Manyenyeni said the congestion in the CBD was scaring away investors in the city centre and appealed to all stakeholders that the vision for the city to be a world-class city by 2025 needed all to work together.