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Police-Kombi war: Drivers accuse police of demanding hefty bribes

Some commuter omnibus drivers whose vehicles have been impounded by the police in the ongoing operation against illegal operators have claimed that they are made to pay up to US$150 to have their vehicles released from the impound yard.

Police have an ongoing operation code named ‘Bring sanity to the CBD’ which has seen over 100 pirate taxes impounded in Bulawayo.

The police often engage in a high-speed chase with errant commuter omnibus drivers which often exposes commuters and other people to danger.

In May President  Emmerson Mnangagwa lifted the ban on private operators which had been in force since 2020, allowing the private operators to return to the road.

The government, however, said it would work on legislation to govern their operation.

In separate interviews with CITE, the drivers claimed they were not informed of the latest operation and only saw traffic officers pouncing on them.

They added that the bribe money they are allegedly forced to pay was increased from US$50 to US$150.

“They increased this amount during this operation but we were previously paying US$50 or US$60. We first pay this bribe before even paying for the official ticket between ZWL$1000- ZWL$2000,” said one driver.

“We are given a small paper written ‘cleared’ which we take to the office where we are supposed to pay for the official ticket.”

The driver added, “This ticket only lasts for one week, it means during that time your vehicle is not impounded.”

Another driver said when their vehicles are impounded their families suffer as they have no means of earning a living.

“A vehicle is taking care of five families including a mechanic, driver, conductor, tout and the owner of the vehicle. If we are not operating, many families will be affected.”

Due to the alleged excessive bribes they pay, the drivers said they are forced to hike commuter fares to US$1 for a single trip.

Contacted for a comment, Bulawayo Police Spokesperson Inspector Abednico Ncube said the operation is above board as they want to bring sanity to the city.

“The police position is, regardless of this operation, we have an operation code-named bring sanity to the CBD targeting especially 6th Avenue where we have noticed that the owners of vehicles who are innocent hire unscrupulous and unlicensed drivers who then take over the road and block it to members of the public to the extent that some parts of the town are now un-trafficable because of that behaviour hence the operation,” said Inspector Ncube.

He said once the police approach a motor vehicle for questioning, the driver is supposed to stop and cooperate with the police.

Inspector Ncube said the fines range between ZWL$1000 and ZWL$2000.

“Should he be asked to pay anything where a receipt is not going to be issued, that person should seek to see the officer in charge and ask for his case to be taken to court,” he said.

The police spokesperson said they have not yet received any report of an assault case, “anyone who is assaulted has a right to make a report to the police.”

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