THE sporadic demonstrations by commuter omnibus operators and vendors in both Harare and Chitungwiza last week should be viewed as a ticking time bomb or a keg waiting to explode in the capital as citizens’ resilience continues to be stretched to the limit.
Riot police’s heavy handed reaction to the demonstration was also to be expected, especially given the government’s known despotic tendencies in the face of public dissent.
The demonstrators left a wake of destruction and garbage in the streets, while on the other hand, the police have left some broken bones and bruises among the activists. All this was uncalled for if the State had taken a proactive role in dealing with issues.
The cat and mouse games between police/traffic enforcement agents and the uncouth omnibus operators is a danger to the wider citizenry. The situation is further worsened by unregulated vending in the streets by hordes of the poor and unemployed.
It is high time that the State and local authorities should step up, roll up their sleeves and address this mess before the country becomes a banana republic.
The State/local authorities should come up with an efficient, reliable and affordable public transport system as a matter of urgency.
Kombis should, in the immediate future, be banned or phased out. The argument about them providing employment is valid, but employment that leads to lawlessness is not worth it.
In the same vein, police should stop acting like the revenue collector and go back to the basics — simply policing crime. It serves no-one when all the police are interested in is fining commuter omnibus operators, but taking no real action against unroadworthy vehicles.
Or Zimbabweans can learn a few things from Rudy Giuliani — the no-nonsense mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001.
During his first term in office, he appointed a new city police commissioner, Bill Bratton, and went on to implement an aggressive law enforcement strategy widely based on James Q Wilson’s “Broken Windows” approach.
The strategy involved crackdowns on relatively minor offences such as graffiti, turnstile jumping, cannabis possession, and aggressive panhandling by “squeegee men”, which they believed would send a strong message and maintain order.
The Chinese have adopted the same attitude towards corruption with amazing results.
It is these “tough love” approaches that in the main can help restore sanity to Zimbabwe and make the country a safe investment centre. We cannot re-emphasise the need for order in our cities, efficient public transport system. This has to start now.