COMMUTER operators in Bulawayo have welcomed the ongoing police blitz on pirate taxis saying the impounding of close to 80 vehicles since last Friday would see their business improving.
Drivers and touts said pirate taxis that have flooded the commuter transport sector were making their services unviable as commuters preferred the unregistered vehicles which ranked at undesignated pick-up points.
“We welcome what the police are doing and it is a good idea,” Gilbert Dube, a rank marshal at Basch Street terminus popularly known as Egodini, said.
“Because of these pirate taxis, we have been doing about three to four trips a day, including peak hour. Most commuters prefer the pirate taxis because they park in town and are easily accessible compared to us who park at Egodini which is a bit far from their workplaces,” Dube said.
A kombi driver Bongani Ndlovu said the blitz had resulted in a marked improvement in the business.
“Ever since the police started impounding the pirate taxis, we have seen a great improvement in our business because for the past months, some of us had been cashing in $40 a day at most, but this weekend we cashed in about $80 which is quite remarkable,” he said.
“We had long been waiting for such an exercise because we were losing out to cars that are not supposed to be on the road as they are not registered.”
A tout, Zwelibanzi Nkomo, urged commuters not to board pirate taxis saying they were putting their lives in danger.
“The public must stop using these pirate taxis as they are being chased by police half the time resulting in some serious accidents,” he said.
They urged the police to descend on pirate taxis that operate from 6th Avenue and Lobengula Street which have illegally established themselves a terminal.
Bulawayo Public Transport Association chairperson Strike Ndlovu also welcomed the police move saying pirates had been giving lawful operators a bad name.
“We are happy that police are carrying out this exercise because our business has been low and to make matters worse, we are supposed to pay presumption tax every three months, but we have been struggling because of the pirate taxis,” Ndlovu said.
Although pirate taxi operators admitted that the blitz was justified, they vowed to continue playing cat and mouse with the cops for as long as they cannot find alternative employment.
“It is indisputable that we are illegally operating, but that is where we get the money to feed our families as we are unemployed. For as long as we get the chance to carry out this illegal exercise, we will because we cannot sit at home and watch our children starving and not going to school,” a pirate operator Daniel Nkunzi said.
Another pirate taxi operator Tinashe Vunzi said they could not regularise their taxis because the required documentation was expensive and not easy to acquire.
“We do not have the necessary documents to be commuter operators because they are expensive. In order for one to lawfully operate, you need a fitness licence, insurance, operator’s licence, Zinara (Zimbabwe National Road agency) charges and appropriate number plates which can come up to a sum of over $1 000,” he said.