The Sunday Mail
IN a harrowing experience, the Chawota family of Dzivaresekwa Extension in Harare escaped death by a whisker after the driver of a truck that was laden with black granite blocks lost control of his vehicle and ploughed through the living room recently.
Fortunately for the family of seven, no one was in the room when the accident happened.
The truck had been parked some few metres from the Chawota home.
Of late, there has been a notable increase in the number of buses and trucks that are being parked and operating from residential areas, particularly in Harare.
Parked vehicles are also being used for criminal activities such as robbery, and as drug dens. Commercial sex workers have also been known to use abandoned vehicles as love nests.
Furthermore, the heavy vehicles, some of which are often left lying idle for some time, are disturbing traffic flow, both on major roads and those in residential areas.
Elias Mbudzana — of Old Highfield, Harare — chronicled how he nearly lost his life after he was attacked by thieves who were hiding in an abandoned bus.
“I was coming from work and I could see that the road ahead of me was clear. As I was passing through two parked buses, two men jumped out and viciously attacked me. I had nowhere to run to,” recounted Mbudzana.
His desperate calls for help fell on deaf ears as residents in the area are cognisant of the risks associated with the area. Reports indicate that barely a night passes without such attacks.
The Sunday Mail Society crew visited some residential parts of Harare where buses and heavy vehicles are parked and operate from.
In Highfield, the crew noticed that buses, tippers, trailers and even cranes were littered along Jabavu Drive, a stone’s throw from the historic Cyril Jennings Hall.
The majority of the parked heavy vehicles and trailers were in a severe state of disrepair and encroaching on the road, distracting motorists.
Similarly, motor mechanics in the vicinity have since turned part of the road into their workplace.
Maud Zvomuya, whose house is located some few metres away from a recently created “junkyard”, raised a red flag.
“Something must be done as a matter of urgency. Until recently, this area was quiet and peaceful. The emergence of this backyard garage has brought untold suffering,” Zvomuya said.
More than five buses belonging to Red Lever Transport Services are parked on the roadside, outside the Zvomuya residence.
Some trucks were partly blocking the entrance to the Old Highfield St Mary’s Catholic Church.
Motor mechanics could be seen fixing some of the vehicles, making a lot of noise in the process.
Trucks belonging to Queens Road Haulage competed for space with the Red Lever buses and other abandoned vehicles.
Morgan Tinarwo, a mechanic who was repairing one of the buses, found nothing wrong with working from the streets.
“Where do you want us to work from? The owner of the buses lives at a nearby house and it is proper for us to do our work here,” a determined Tinarwo, who is clearly ignorant of Harare City Council by-laws, said.
According to Tinarwo, the owner of the buses “dumped” them near his house, after they had developed some electrical faults.
“These buses were imported from the United Kingdom but they are not suitable for our weather conditions and probably the state of our roads. As a result, the buses easily break down. The owner has since abandoned them and returned to his base in the UK,” Tinarwo said.
Others consider parking next to their homes a cost-cutting measure.
“We have a car park in the area but I need at least US$5 per truck for overnight parking, which is too expensive for me,” said a Mabvuku-based transport operator who declined to be named.
In Dzivaresekwa Extension, a road verge that stretches from Chesa Shopping Centre along Solomon Mujuru Drive (formerly Kirkman Road) to the busy Kembo Shopping Centre is littered with all kinds of both abandoned and functional buses and trucks.
Heavy-duty trucks that transport bricks from the nearby brickfields to different parts of Harare constitute most of the illegally parked vehicles.
Lorraine Kadzura, who runs a grocery shop at Kembo Shopping Centre, complained bitterly about the presence of the vehicles.
“This shopping centre is now crowded with these trucks, which make a lot of noise. Besides the noise pollution, the heavy vehicles also damage roads and emit harmful gases and dust,” complained Kadzura.
She is also not amused by the truck and bus drivers’ uncouth behaviour.
“They behave more like rowdy and disrespectful touts. They are always drunk and abusive, and often prey on girls and married women. We do not want them here,” she said.
Precious Shumba, the executive director of the Harare Residents Trust, reckons it is now not uncommon to see buses and trucks that are parked and operating from residential areas.
“In most communities, especially high-density suburbs, this is a common occurrence. This is contributing to the damage of the already bad road network, with drainage pipes sometimes collapsing under the weight of the heavy vehicles,” notes Shumba.
The trust executive director urged the public to take action.
“Residents may also take note of the registration numbers of buses and trucks parked in their residential areas and submit them to the Harare Municipal Traffic Police for action.
“It is the duty of affected residents to take the initiative to make reports to the relevant offices so that they play a part in safeguarding the suburban roads,” said Shumba.
However, such challenges are not confined to Harare’s high-density areas; low-density suburbs and the central business district (CBD) are experiencing the same problems.
Buses and haulage trucks are a regular sight in the capital city’s CBD, where they are not allowed.
Harare City Council spokesperson Innocent Ruwende explained how the heavy vehicles are supposed to operate.
“Loaded or unloaded haulage trucks are not allowed to pass through the city centre and residential areas at all times. Haulage trucks are not allowed in the central business district between 6am and 6pm,” explained Ruwende.
He said heavy vehicles are only allowed in the central business district and residential areas during specific times and when they will be delivering goods and providing other services.
The trucks, he added, have specific routes which they are required to use.
The council official said they would soon come down hard on haulage truck owners who are disregarding council by-laws.
“Our traffic-enforcement agents will not hesitate to clamp any haulage truck found in the CBD during the day,” Ruwende said.
The Harare City Council, he warned, is going to embark on a blitz targeting heavy vehicles entering and parking in both the central business district and in residential areas, in breach of council by-laws.
It will also begin towing away abandoned vehicles from open spaces, road verges and car parks in the city centre and some suburbs for disposal through auction.
“We are targeting both residential areas and the CBD. We are urging truck operators to remove all their trucks that are wrongly parked in residential areas. Heavy vehicles are barred from residential areas because roads in the suburbs are not designed for their weight.”
Haulage trucks and buses that operate in residential areas also destroy infrastructure such as telephone and electricity lines.
The noise and vibrations they cause also have an effect on houses.
What they do elsewhere
In some parts of South Australia, the council first contacts the police to ascertain an abandoned vehicle’s status. If the vehicle has been stolen, the police will organise its removal.
If it is not stolen and the owner is not known, a community safety inspector will attempt to find the owner by knocking at the doors of adjacent residences, leaving a contact card if no one is at home.
Then, if the vehicle has not been removed by the next day, a notice will be placed under the wiper, advising that the vehicle needs to be removed within 24 hours.
If it has not been removed within this period or alternative arrangements made with the council, a second notice will be placed on the vehicle, declaring it to be apparently abandoned and advising that if it is not moved within 24 hours, it will be impounded.
An attempt is also made to contact the registered owner through government vehicle registration records. If no contact is made or the owner cannot be reached and the vehicle is not removed within an agreed period, it will be impounded and towed to the council’s compound.
All unclaimed vehicles will be sold by tender. A notice providing details of the vehicles to be sold will be placed in a public newspaper beforehand.