Feature: Gweru: A city where streets have no rules

Gweru CBD

IMAGINE a city without traffic rules where you approach a busy junction and there’s no robot to control traffic.

Such is the case with the country’s third largest city, Gweru, where the city council has let its traffic lights lay dormant for almost a decade now.

It is chaotic on the streets of what was named the city of progress, albeit without much progress to write about. 

All day long, small vehicles, buses and heavy trucks wind around one another on the busy Robert Mugabe way, while people meander gracefully through junctions without directions from traffic lights. 

It all appears to run smoothly as both pedestrians and motorists seek convenience on the road.

In truth, motorists have been left to use a combination of common sense courtesy to negotiate their way in the “naked” central business district (CBD).

Only one traffic light functions at the intersection of Hamutyinei Road, which joins the CBD to the larger part of Mkoba high-density suburb.

And it’s almost a decade, with the city council failing to repair the traffic lights due to a wrangle with a Chinese contractor who installed the solar lights back in 2013.

As the matter rages before the courts of arbitration, ten years later, Gweru streets remain “naked”. 

Council has however revealed plans to install new traffic lights, side by side with the old ones, whose case is in court.

“As council, we realise that arbitration was just taking too long and for us it is indeed of paramount importance for us to ensure that we have traffic lights in the city of Gweru,” council spokesperson Vimbai Chingwaramusee said.

“So we have since resolved that we have parallel robots running whilst those under arbitration will not be touched. 

“We are going to have those very soon. Our team is on the ground to see how much that will cost us.”

In truth, what the council says appears to be solution-oriented but how they will do it remains to be seen considering the space at intersections.

Over the years, councillors have said there was a need to give the courts time to determine the matter.

However they seem to have lost faith in the arbitration system which is said to be led by a Cameroon based arbitrator.

Motorists expressed concern as they risk being involved in accidents on a daily basis. 

A number of accidents have been recorded in the CBD due to lack of traffic lights.

“It’s risky but at least those with private cars drive carefully. Kombis and small pirate taxis do what they want. It’s ungovernable," a motorist who identified himself as Pardon Mahachi said.

“The Robert Mugabe way has been the most problematic. Traffic police are there and not even concerned about controlling traffic in the morning.

“The City council has to act but every stakeholder has to come on board and not be ignorant.”

One vendor, Richmond Matongo, who sells vegetables in a hand-drawn wagon in the CDB recalls how he was almost hit by a car at an uncontrolled intersection.

I lost the better part of my vegetables at an intersection near Pick n Pay, along Robert Mugabe way.  I was lucky to quickly jump aside and avoid being hit by a Honda fit vehicle,” Matongo said.

“So I jumped aside and let the wagon fall on the road and my fruits were scattered and squashed by the oncoming traffic.”

Residents associations have for years lobbied the council but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

What makes it a curious case is the fact that the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works has remained mum on the  matter.

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