MATHIAS Gore’s family was last week plunged into mourning, when their breadwinner died after being assaulted by touts while he was trying to board a bus to Mutare en-route to Mozambique near the Roadport International Terminus in Harare.
BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA
The touts, who operate at the illegal rank, reportedly assaulted the man after he had refused to board a bus of their choosing.
Shattered by her husband’s death, Gore’s wife sat on the tarmac and wept bitterly, as the police placed the deceased’s body into a metal coffin.
Scores of angry people who gathered at the scene were livid at the touts’ behaviour and called on the authorities to deal with the scourge and arrest the perpetrators.
“This is uncalled for. It is high time the authorities chased away touts from the ranks,” Lovemore Kandemiri, one of the people who witnessed the incident, said.
“A person cannot lose life in such a way just because the touts want to get paid a mere 30 cents or $1.
“Passenger safety in this country is at stake.”
The tragedy followed an almost similar incidence in which a 25-year-old pregnant woman, Lyn Chidawaya, died with her unborn baby after she was assaulted by touts at Mbudzi Bus Terminus, where she wanted to board a Beitbridge-bound bus in May last year.
Two suspects — Chamunorwa Gumboshumba (29) and Shame Ruzha (37) — were arrested over the incident.
Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) communications officer Tatenda Chinoda said while removing touts from terminuses was difficult, bus operators should run their businesses professionally.
“Our motto is Safety first, there is no second chance. Touts are not only illegal, but also animalistic.
“Someone pays them for touting. It is this system of paying touts that is very wrong,” he said.
“Operators and bus drivers must run their business professionally or else they will be held accountable.”
Harare City Council (HCC) is struggling to control traffic in the capital, resulting in the sprouting of illegal ranks and an increase in the number of touts.
Some of the touts even drive the kombis while searching for passengers on behalf of the transport crews at undesignated sites.
In May last year, Jocelyn Gomba (17), a Form Four student at Girls High School in Harare, had her life cut short by a kombi speeding in the wrong lane which fatally hit her.
The accident also left a 35-year old pedestrian, Odwell Mabanga, seriously injured.
Following a march by pupils from Girls High and Queen Elizabeth schools demanding the removal of an illegal rank near the schools’ premises, HCC moved in and shut it down, but it has now resurfaced.
HCC spokesperson Michael Chideme said they would relocate buses from the illegal rank to designated places.
“It’s an unfortunate and regrettable incident. We were already in the process of relocating the buses from that rank following complaints from the commuting public,” he said.
“We are relocating some buses from Mbare Musika to Mbudzi and, in the process, creating more space at Mbare for the Mutare road-bound traffic.
“In addition, we are exploring opening another rank along Mutare Road to cater for that route.”
The local authority, in 2014, spent about $500 000 in constructing the Coventry Holding Bay in a bid to de-congest the city, but the rank has become a white elephant after having found no takers.
Chideme said the local authority, on its own, could not deal with the problem of touts, saying the police should also play their part, while the public should also board buses at designated points.
“As council, we cannot eradicate the menace of touts. We do not have arresting powers, hence, we need the Zimbabwe Republic Police’s (ZRP) support at every stage,” he said.
“The public needs to participate as well through refusing to board or disembark from undesignated ranks.
“We are enhancing our enforcement and as you may have noticed, so far, we are working tirelessly with ZRP to contain the situation.”
Law enforcement in Harare has become a major problem given that a number of people have been injured as municipal cops and traffic police details were involved in cat-and-mouse chases with kombis and taxis dropping or picking passengers at illegal points.
Road safety ambassador and musician, Jeys Marabini, said a multi-sectoral approach was needed to ensure passenger safety.
“Our government should put in place stern measures against this for the benefit of passengers,” he said.
“If one leaves his home on a journey, he knows where he is going, he has a plan on how he is going to get to the next destination.
“But we have some section of society, who believe they can direct people. We need to be civilised.”
Marabini said a multi-sectoral approach towards dealing with this problem was needed, “lest we continue losing lives”.
“There should be security details at ranks to protect passengers,” he said.
Apart from assaulting passengers, touts have been at the forefront of sexually harassing women clad in short dresses and skirts as well as tight pants, accusing them of dressing indecently.
On March 11, 2014, dozens of women took to the streets in bright mini-skirts and skimpy attire in a protest march at Copacabana bus terminus.
It was both an assertion of their rights and a challenge to the touts, who had previously stripped naked a woman, who was wearing a short skirt.
The video of the young woman being stripped naked by the touts went viral on social media, before police moved in and arrested two perpetrators.
The culprits were on March 26, 2015, sentenced to one year in prison each, with four months suspended, by Harare magistrate Renikah Dzikiti.
For now, the Gore family is still in shock over the manner they lost their loved one.
They may take consolation if a lasting solution to the tout menace is found, although this will not make up for his death.