The Sunday Mail
Gender and Community Editor
Navigating roads in the central business district (CBD) has become a near-impossible feat as most of them are often clogged by commuter omnibuses, most of which do not have Harare City Council (HCC) permits.
In fact, city fathers claim 8 000 of the 12 000 kombis ferrying commuters in the city are doing so illegally.
As a result, most of the capital’s streets are impassable, especially during rush hour.
HCC chief town planner Mr Samuel Nyabeze said most of the indiscipline on the roads could be eliminated by enforcing existing by-laws.
“It is an issue we have been discussing with the ZRP (Zimbabwe Republic Police). The major problem is enforcement; we have holding bays designated for the commuter omnibuses, but they are not willing to use them. The majority are those not registered with council and have no permits,” Mr Nyabeze said.
The frantic duels between commuter omnibus crews and mushika-shikas (the pirate taxis) during rush hour often make it increasingly difficult for motorists to traverse the city.
In some instances, traffic police, especially at some of the troublesome junctions such as corner Julius Nyerere Way and Kenneth Kaunda Avenue, have brought a modicum of sanity, but the sheer magnitude of the chaos has often been overwhelming.
Jason Moyo, Leopold Takawira, Mbuya Nehanda streets and Robert Mugabe Road are some of the throughfares that are caught up in the rush-hour madness.
Most often than not, the three-lane Chinhoyi Street is closed off to ordinary motorists.
It is, however, the magnitude of the lawlessness, particularly by public transport operators, during peak periods that law-abiding motorists find annoying.
It is not uncommon for kombi crews to recklessly straddle the continuous (unbroken) white lines and encroach into the opposite lane.
Other operators even have the temerity to drive against the flow of traffic and ignore red robots.
Vendors operating from undesignated areas, Mr Nyabeze said, are further compounding the chaos in the CBD by choking council trench pits with their wares.
But HCC is very ambitious.
“The solution in this whole chaos is to have a proper public transport system. We have programmes in the pipeline to introduce a light rail running through roads.
“Currently, we are doing feasibility studies — working on ranks and phases of the project.
“The first phase is looking at light rail in Dzivarasekwa, Kuwadzana and Highfield, while the second would be in Mabvuku and Tafara. The last being in Chitungwiza. The speed of implementing the project is dependent on our investors. That is why we have done all that needs to be done for it to be approved by Government,” he said.
Government plans to diversify the mass public transport system, which has been boosted by the recapitalisation of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco), for the convenience of commuters.
Harare province police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Webster Dzvova said although law enforcement agents were arresting offenders, they simply found their way onto the roads again once they paid their fines.
“We have been running awareness campaigns. During those campaigns, we also check if operating crews have all the required papers like passenger insurance, road fitness certificates, etc. We also arrest those who do not have the papers and send them to VID and Harare City Council . . .
“You are aware that when we impound some of the vehicles, they go to court and appeal that their vehicles have been held for too long.
‘‘They pay fines and return on the road,” he said.
It is believed that more deterrent fines could help.