Government has given commuter omnibus operators in Mutare two weeks to properly register their vehicles and ensure their drivers have licences and medical certificates allowing them to drive public vehicles. Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs Cde Mandi Chimene issued the ultimatum yesterday when she toured the Chikanga-Sakubva bus rank to assess the situation prevailing on the ground in terms of the operations of commuter omnibuses.
"No kombi should be allowed to ply any route in Mutare if it is not properly registered. All kombis should be licensed, have a VID fitness certificate and a police clearance certificate on fitness and should have billboards bearing their destinations to make it easy for commuters to identify them. In fact, there should be different identification colour bands on kombis to represent the various destinations to which they go," she said.
"Drivers to those vehicles and their conductors should also have uniforms in those colours to make it easy for people to spot the kombis to their homes. There should be no touts jostling and harassing passengers. Do you know that it is an offence just to touch a person or wrestle their luggage, forcing them to board your kombi?"
Minister Chimene posed the question to the crowd that gathered to listen to her speech. Officials from the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Mutare city officials, police officers, kombi drivers, touts, chairpersons of commuter omnibus associations and the general public attended the minister's brief tour. Cde Chimene's stern warning comes in the wake of an incident in which a commuter died in Harare after being physically harassed by touts, who were forcing him to board a bus bound for Mutare.
The incident has since seen urban councils and police tightening screws on commuter omnibuses and conventional buses picking up passengers from undesignated points. Cde Chimene promised to bring more police details, including some in plain clothes on to the roads to make sure kombis were abiding by the new regulations that she spelt out yesterday. Cde Chimene said no kombi would be allowed to pick or drop passengers at undesignated points, stating that those caught risked having their vehicles impounded and the drivers arrested.
"The police will not issue tickets - tickets merely demonstrate your admission of guilt, so I will order them to imprison offenders and not issue tickets. There is no bus terminus near this robot by the swimming pool just outside Sakubva where I see kombis blocking the road picking and dropping passengers -- from now onwards, anyone seen doing that faces a life ban from driving a public vehicle in Mutare, while the vehicle that he will be using will also be impounded," she said.
Chairman of the Urban Transporters Association of Zimbabwe, Mr Duncan Nyazika commended Government for the move, saying it would bring sanity to the industry while promoting the creation of more job opportunities at the same time.
"What the minister is saying is very sensible to us .It will help us to operate viably. We want all public passenger vehicles to operate from the rank. The police is also making life very difficult for us by harassing kombi operators queuing inside the rank, while mushikashika Honda Fit cars are moving freely in the city without harassment," said Nyazika.