Youths set tollgates in ghettos

UNEMPLOYED youths in Harare’s high density suburbs are erecting backstreet tollgates and charging 50 cents per entry as commuter omnibuses (kombis) evade police roadblocks.

The tolls have been mounted inside most high density suburbs in streets used by kombis as they try to escape harassment from traffic cops’ countless check points.

In an interview with the WeekendPost one youth in Mbare, Steven Kwesha said what started off as a way of reducing accidents caused by speeding kombis passing through their homes has turned into their livelihood.

“At first we wanted to close our streets because these drivers were speeding in residential areas which posed a risk to children who would be playing on the roads.

“However, when we noticed what was happening, we found a niche business and set up these tollgates.

“We charge 50 cents for every vehicle that wants to pass by and if they refuse we simply will not open the way for them.
“If they want to make money, what makes them think we also do not want the same? At the end of the day, it is a win-win situation for everyone because they save $20 in spot fines at the roadblocks and we gain a nominal fee for our services,” Kwesha said.

“While we are providing a getaway route for kombis and an income for ourselves, we are also ensuring the safety of the residents in our neighbourhoods. We cannot sacrifice the lives of our neighbours for 50 cents. While we appreciate the need for money, life is more important to us.”

A kombi driver at Copacabana rank, Tapiwa Ziriro said it was better to pay the small fee than waste $20 giving it to the police everyday.

“Everyday the police have tickets waiting for us for the same offences. Even if we remedy our mistakes a kombi will always be wrong at a roadblock, so going through backstreets is a better option.

“We work with targets and if we do not meet them because we paid a bribe to go through a roadblock, we suffer as drivers,” he said.

Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors president Fradreck Maguramhinga said drivers have become so frustrated with police roadblocks that they opt to travel through these alleyways and backstreets.

He said drivers are always complaining that they are being targeted by the police because they know the transport industry is one of the few industries that still uses cash.

“Even though drivers use these backstreets as escape routes, the police have also noticed the development, hence set up roadblocks in residential areas as well.

“The other reason why some of the drivers are evading police mounted roadblocks is because the cops are now acting on behalf of the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) by impounding cars for offences they do not know.

“While we are not against the police doing their job — what happens on the ground is contrary to what is prescribed by the law,” he said. —Helen Kadirire

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