Police in Bulawayo are enforcing a new operation code-named ‘Mtakagogo’ targeting pirate vehicles most of which illegally ferry commuters in and out of the CBD.
The government in March banned the use of kombis and other vehicles as urban public transport under the guise of curbing the spread of Covid-19.
To date only the government’s Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) remains the sole public transport in urban areas despite numerous pleas from kombi operators to be allowed to resume operations.
Some Kombi and Honda Fit operators have however illegally returned to the road and are in running battles with police whom they have also accused of demanding bribes from them.
Commuter omnibuses being targeted are those picking up and dropping passengers at undesignated places such as 6th Avenue, Tredgold and Pick n’ Pay Hyper.
So far 73 Kombis, 15 Honda Fits and 11 other vehicles including trucks have since been impounded with the owners set to appear in court soon.
“We have an operation called ‘Mtakagogo’ at 6th Avenue and Tredgold mainly focusing on pirate vehicles ferrying people at undesignated places,” Bulawayo provincial police spokesperson, Inspector Abednico Ncube, told a press conference Wednesday.
“Our ground commanders of this operation are Inspector Bongani Sibanda, officer in charge of traffic at Drill Hall and Inspector Joseph Mpofu, officer in charge of crime at Drill Hall traffic. What is happening now is that Inspector Sibanda is in charge of arresting cars, which will be brought here (Ross Camp), and we have realised that it is better for it to not end here anymore; owners of Kombis will be going to court”.
He explained further: “Right now, we are no longer arresting drivers and vehicles, we now impound cars and charging owners of kombis. They are now the ones going to court. We realised that at times when drivers are arrested, the owners of vehicles can still employ other people without feeling any pain. In that vein we are saying, every owner of the kombi is responsible for the crime done by their vehicle as they are the ones giving instructions to drivers on what to do.”
He said the operation would continue and only change name when crime reduces.
“We are hoping to impound more vehicles tomorrow (Thursday) during the New Year’s Eve because people get over excited and end up not following the law. We are not talking about when it will end. Maybe it will stop when crime decreases but as long as people are not following the law it will continue,” said Inspector Ncube.
Owners of impounded kombis, Ncube said, were facing charges of operating without Covid-19 operators’ licenses.
He said all kombis should register under ZUPCO for them to be allowed to operate, a move resisted by many operators.
“You will notice that it’s not only kombis which are here, there are also Honda Fits which will never get licensed. They get arrested too. There are also other vehicles which get impounded such as pick-ups which are also here,” he said.