COMMUTER omnibuses owned by members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) have become a nuisance in Kwekwe’s Central Business District (CBD) picking and dropping passengers at intersections and pedestrian crossings with no sanctions from council police.
The kombis, which have addresses clearly marked ZRP main camp, escape clamping as council police fear their owners.
Civilian operators have now begun resisting and defying council police resulting in fights on the streets over what they deem selective application of the law.
Tafadzwa Gambiza, a local transport operator, said police enjoyed unfair business advantage because their vehicles went through roadblocks easily and escaped council police even when they clearly broke city by-laws.
“We are worried because while we park at the rank waiting for passengers, kombis belonging to police officers are left touting for passengers in the CBD,” said Gambiza.
“If we try the same, council police will pounce on us; throw spikes and tow away our vehicles, but we have started resisting them,” he said.
The fine for touting at undesignated points is $20 while the towing fee is $40 for kombis.
The operators have also accused the municipal police and Pillan Towing — the company hired by the local authority to tow away vehicles caught breaching by-laws — of behaving like members of a vigilante group.
“They have become a law unto themselves whereby if you don’t give them bribes your vehicle will be clamped and towed even if you have not committed any offence, yet other kombis can do as they please and nothing happens to them,” said Gambiza.
Following a fight which broke out between kombi drivers and municipal police, the matter was brought to the attention of a full council meeting last Thursday.
Mayor Matenda Madzoke was tasked to meet with Kwekwe’s top cop Chief Superintendent Maritha Nyathi over the matter.
Councillor Maclean Nyakucherera also proposed that in line with a directive from police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri directing all police officers to stop operating kombis, council should stop renewing their operators’ licences.
Chihuri issued a directive a fortnight ago, giving police operating in the public transport sector two months to divest although no punitive measures were spelled out for those who remain defiant.
Chihuri also said no kombi should have a police camp address on it as it perpetuated corruption with even defective vehicles passing through roadblocks because they were owned by cops.
The directive came in the wake of complaints by other operators and concerned groups that allowing cops to operate commuter transport constituted a conflict of interest and compromised safety and implementation of traffic regulations as kombis owned by serving officers were among the worst traffic offenders.