THOUSANDS of commuters in Bulawayo were left stranded yesterday morning when pirate taxi drivers ran amok and fought running battles with members of the Bulawayo United Transporters’ Association (Bupta), over city routes.
BY TALENT GUMPO
Bupta administration director Albert Ncube said tempers flared when over 60 suspected pirate taxi drivers deflated tyres of a Bupta-branded kombi and allegedly blocked Burnside Road, demanding that they be allowed to ferry passengers.
“We received a call in the morning when pirate vehicles drivers punctured the tyres of one of our vehicles, they were all over the junction with headlights on and boots open and carrying boulders threatening to bring business to a standstill. They only drove off when the police came to rescue the situation. Only three were captured after they ran out of fuel,” he said.
“Pirate vehicles have taken over our routes. They are everywhere. They took over Matopos Road, as it is there are over 200 such vehicles plying this route. We are operating within the confines of the law because we have licences that allow us to conduct our business on this route. Pirate taxis want to take over our business and be allowed to operate freely, but they do not have red number plates, defensive driving licenses or permits that allow them to do so.”
Ncube called on the government to introduce stiffer penalties for illegal taxi drivers.
“We are being driven out of business. On this road [Burnside], there are about 70 Honda Fit vehicles pirating here and there are only 25 registered kombis. The government must come up with penalties to bring an end to this. The spot fines they pay on the roads ($10) is nothing because they can pay that and get back on the road.”
Mayor Martin Moyo said the move by pirate taxi drivers was illegal, as they were not authorised to run public transport business.
“We are moving towards a system of decongesting our roads, we want to have large vehicles only operating as public transport, and we are talking buses, trains and so on. We are doing this as a response mechanism to climatic conditions. The fewer the vehicles on our roads, the less the emission of gasses that destroy the ozone layer.”
He said pirate taxis are notorious for overloading and operating without licences, putting the lives of passengers in danger.
“The law must descend heavily on them because efforts to solve this problem amicably have clearly fallen on deaf ears.