Sumbawanga — KATANDALA-Miti Mirefu area in Sumbawanga Municipality , Rukwa Region turned into a battle ground when daladala drivers and bajaj riders exchanged blows, as they fought over the allocation of routes.
Unfounded reports had it that a bajaj rider died after sustaining severe injuries during the skirmishes . The story has been strongly refuted by the police.
The drama caused quite a stir and bringing transport services on the section of the road links , Daraja via Miti Mirefu to Majengo - Mwisho to a standstill.
The fracas, according to police and eyewitnesses, occurred early morning of Friday when people believed to be daladala drivers armed with crude weapons including stones and bricks blocked a section of the road in an effort to prevent bajaj riders from operating.
Eyewitnesses told the 'Daily News' that the skirmishes ensued when daladala drivers turned violent, beating the bajaj riders after forcibly hauling them out of their bajajs. Police anti-riot squad carrying arms and some gas canisters were deployed at the scene to quell the skirmishes.
Rukwa Regional Police Commander (RPC) , Mr Jacob Mwaruanda confirmed the incident, adding that no major casualties were immediately established, although a few people were rushed to hospitals where they were treated.
"We urge members of the public as well as owners of the motor vehicles, including bajajs that were damaged during the incident to report to relevant authorities for legal action," the RPC said.
The 'Sunday News' witnessed several bajajs being parked at religious institutes for safety and others at bars which have secure backyards .
"I was so scared as bullets were fired in the air, children and adults particularly women sought refuge, taking cover wherever they could. It was terrifying I have never seen or heard something terrible like this," said John Joseph, a primary school pupil.
The saga apparently started on Thursday afternoon when bajaj riders organised a peaceful demonstration from Mwenge Primary School playing ground at Mazwi area to Regional Commissioner's offices at Mkoani area.
According to the aggrieved bajaj riders , they protested against a decision made by authorities to bar them from operating along the Mandela -Darajani-Majengo-Mwisho routes and instead they were allocated alternative routes.
Contacted for comments, Rukwa Regional Traffic Commander, Mr Leonard Gyindo confirmed that the bajaj riders had been re allocated to another route and had been banned from operating along the disputed routes.
"We suppressed the riot and dispersed them from Miti- Mirefu area within a short time," added the RTO. Rukwa Regional Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (Sumatra ) Officer, Mr David Chiragi confirmed that the baja riders were allocated alternative routes.
A cross-section of residents here faulted the decision made by Sumatra and the traffic police - saying that the decision completely dented the spirit of fair competitions.