THE Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has launched a nationwide joint operation to rein in errant motorists, who have literally turned the country’s roads into a traffic jungle where driving is a nightmare.
The blitz codenamed “Tame The Traffic Jungle Phase Two” started Tuesday and is expected to run for two weeks, ending September 26.
As a result of the operation, commuters in Chinhoyi, and other major towns, have been left stranded following the impounding of the only reliable mode of transport, pirate taxis commonly known as mushikashika.
The few lucky pirates that survive the cat-and-mouse games with the authorities have been overwhelmed, forcing them to hike fares from US$0.50c to US$1 for a one-way trip during the morning and evening rush hours.
A snap survey by NewZimbabwe.com revealed commuters plying shorter routes had resorted to walking to and from work while those from further afield had to endure long queues to embark on few available registered public transport vehicles.
Stranded commuters expressed concern over the unavailability of transport.
“Police sealed off the illegal taxi rank at CABS in Chinhoyi threatening to arrest pirate taxi operators and this left us stranded, we had no choice but foot all the way home,” said Diana Kandemiri of White City suburb.
Another desperate commuter, Godfrey Masawi of Ruvimbo Phase 2 suburb shot down the “ill-timed” police operation saying it was causing unnecessary suffering of already hard-pressed Zimbabweans tormented by a collapsed public transportation system.
“The police operation is uncalled for and only exacerbates the suffering of the masses. Government should resuscitate its public transport system which it has failed to do despite the unending noises about the revival of the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).
“At least the pirate taxis are filling the gap created by ZUPCO and they must be left to operate as long there are no public buses and kombis than creating this chaos,” said Masawi.
There is not even a single ZUPCO bus plying urban routes in Chinhoyi and other towns in Mashonaland West.
According to a leaked internal police memorandum from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) acting chief director, Assistant Commissioner Jealous Nyabasa, the ongoing operation’s mission is to bring sanity both to urban and rural roads by ensuring vehicle owners comply with various laws.
“Pirate taxis and kombis have almost taken over the passenger service industry and are plying the roads with impunity. They recklessly drive through red robots at controlled intersections,” reads the police memo.
Also targeted are public service vehicles loading and offloading passengers at undesignated points, which has resulted in city roads being unpassable.
Trucks criss-crossing through prohibited urban routes disregarding use of designated roads are also causing unnecessary congestion, police say.
Vehicles, including those belonging to government, not fitted with registration number plates will also be impounded.
Other stakeholders involved in the clampdown include Vehicle Examination Department (VED), Century Vehicle Registry (CVR), Zimbabwe National Roads Authority (ZINARA), Insurance Council of Zimbabwe (ICZ), local authorities, among others.