Drive along Kwame Nkrumah Avenue into Julius Nyerere Way and you’ll be instantly aware of the touts frantically trying to get you to park. Various parking spots in the Central Business District (CBD) where there is great demand for parking space are zones of high activity for the unofficial parking attendants. The introduction of official parking marshals in 2010 seems to have done little to get them out of business. This makes it very confusing if you want to park in the CBD.
The trade of attending cars was popularised by street-kids looking for money to buy food. It’s now dominated by people who come from normal homes and commute everyday into town to do this work.
“There are no street-kids here, we all come from our homes. This occupation is like any other informal job and we have good working relations with our clients,” said one parking tout in the Harare Gardens area.
However, some motorists, especially women, have complained of being harassed by the parking touts, who have a reputation of abusive behaviour towards unyielding motorists.
“We are being forced to pay double parking fees, as the touts force us to pay even if we have already paid to Easipark marshals. If you refuse they can become abusive,” said Nyasha Munemo (34).
Easipark parking marshal, Mary, told Harare News that the parking touts along Kwameh Krumah Avenue were abusive to both the motorists and the parking officials especially women. “They even harass us if we want to collect money from what they call ‘their’ cars. In the end we are forced not to venture into their territories,” she said.
Administration and Finance Director for Easipark, Dr Gadzamoyo Dewah, says that parking touts are a problem for his company and calls on the relevant authorities to act.
“You will not get a town without street-kids and touts but they should be minimised through employment creation and enforcement by the ZRP. The problems we get with the touts and our workers is really about who gets to the motorist first to get the dollar for parking,” said Dr Dewah.
The race that exists between the touts and Easipark officials sees the touts winning in many cases as they are usually on the streets earlier than the parking officials. “Some motorists come earlier than seven so obviously the touts will get the dollar from those people,” said Dr Dewah.
Easipark official work hours are from 7:30am to 4pm, whereas the parking touts’ shifts are flexible as they can operate from sunrise till after 8pm, depending on the day. This has enabled them to consolidate their position in the parking business.
Dr Dewah also said that the continued operation of the parking touts was having a negative impact on his company’s balance sheet and affecting their plans. However, he also blames motorists of working in cahoots with the parking touts in order to default on payments.
“In some areas motorists give their keys to these touts so that when parking officials are approaching the tout will pretend to reverse the car. It has become really scandalous,” said Dr Dewah.
Easipark was formed through a partnership between City of Harare and South Africa’s Easihold with the aim of offering parking services in the CBD. Easipark has 195 parking officials in Harare and operates in a mapped area where the company installed parking meters.
Official parking costs US$1 per hour and any unauthorised stay will result in the clamping of the vehicle. On the other hand, the parking touts’ charges are negotiable and they seem to have struck a common understanding with the various stakeholders who include the municipal traffic police, parking officials as well as motorists.
The presence of unofficial parking touts has been attributed to lack of parking space. Increasing the number of operational parkades could go a long way towards addressing this.