Commuter omnibus operators in Bulawayo have bemoaned the ongoing smashing of their vehicles` windscreens by police following the intensification of their crackdown on public transporters not operating under the government’s Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise.
Transport operators have appealed to the law enforcement agents to instead arrest drivers, conductors and kombi owners violating the law as opposed to damaging vehicles.
The government in March banned kombis from operating as public transport under the disguise of containing the spread of the global pandemic, Covid-19, leaving only ZUPCO as the only sole operator.
Hundreds of kombi owners, drivers and conductors who were forced out of employment when the ban was effected have however resumed operations illegally citing economic hardships.
A survey conducted by CITE in the CBD Monday revealed that police have since employed a new tactic of smashing windscreens and impounding pirate kombis as part of measures to stop them from operating.
The transport situation in the city remains bad owing to a few ZUPCO buses and kombis that are operating, at a time when there is a lot of festive activitivities in the city.
Commuters are still forced to queue for long hours under the scorching sun while they are at times exposed to rains.
Tshova Mubaiwa Transport Corporation Chairperson, Atlas Moyo, said they could not stop kombi operators from operating as they were not in any position to assist them financially.
“Police are smashing people’s cars; instead of arresting people they are now damaging cars, we are tired; people are hungry and we can’t stop them from operating and we are not able to assist them,” said Moyo.
He said the majority of kombi operators were no longer going through associations citing the dilemma facing them.
“Some of them do approach us but some of them don’t; some of them tell us that there is nothing they can do as they have to pay rent, pay school fees, pay licence for those cars and have to buy food,” he said.
Bulawayo Provincial Police Spokesperson, Inspector Abednico Ncube, said he had not received a report yet of smashed vehicles.
“I am yet to receive a report of smashed vehicles; my position is we are enforcing the law , arresting kombis,” he said.
Inspector Ncube revealed that more than 100 kombis had since been impounded for breaking the law.
“I believe a number of them are impounded at Ross Camp; I do not have a figure yet but they are above 100 for violating the law; a simple instruction was given that anyone operating should go through ZUPCO but for reasons unknown to the police they are defying,” he said.
“It’s not here or there that people should defy the law because we cannot live in a lawless country and police will never fold arms letting crime go on because we risk leading the country into anarchy. They are testing the strength of the law and we want to warn them that yes the law is very strong and it will never be bent, so the arrest of the kombis will be intensified until normalcy is brought back.”
Inspector Ncube added that members of the public should use public transport that will not endanger their lives.
“We have told passengers not to board these kombis, so anyone in that vehicle is not a passenger but part of the criminal team, we have appealed several times to our members of the public to say don’t board the criminal vehicles because you will be also judged as a criminal.
“People should not board cars that we have said they should not board only to come back to us and cry foul to us,” he said.