Plans by City of Harare to construct a new commuter terminal on Coventry Road behind the Kopje area have stirred debate from commuters and commuter operators alike.
The plan, which aims to decongest the streets of Harare, is seen as a futile exercise if the city does not deal with corruption within the municipal police ranks and review its commuter operators licensing policy.
Commuter operator Joel Nhidza believes the problem in Harare is the licensing and policing of transport vehicles. “We have so many vehicles licensed to operate in the city while the terminal facilities have remained the same since the 70s when they catered for a few buses,” he said. “Corruption is also rampant. In many cases unlicensed vehicles are the ones that are causing problems in the city. They carry commuters from undesignated points in the presence of police.”
While welcoming the idea, an Avondale based commuter Robin Muziri said the city will still have to deal with the growing number of people in need of transportation.
Kombi driver Dennis Mhizha blames the public, saying that kombis pick up passengers from undesignated areas because they prefer convenient places rather than terminals.
He is also concerned that the use of terminals slows down his operation. “We only do three trips when we use the terminal, while those who operate outside the terminal can do ten to 12 trips a day,” he pointed out.
Harare has four designated commuter terminals that were constructed in the 70s. Over half a million people commute from these to other parts of the city every day.
According to Proctor Utete, Director of Operations, Research and Marketing at the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), the problems caused by the commuter operators have reached levels where not only basic human rights are violated but also the city is becoming unnavigable.
“There have been high volumes of traffic coming into the city and the city engineers have not constructed alternative terminal space for commuters,” said Utete.
He says that as a result traffic violations have increased in Harare’s Central Business District (CBD); “Most of these violations have resulted in accidents caused by human error, less are by mechanical defects as most people think.”
The Town Planning Department, which deals with licensing of kombis in the city, was unavailable for comment.
However, statistics from ZRP reveal that accidents involving commuter drivers in the city are soaring. Harare City Traffic Section arrested more than 160 commuter omnibus drivers and impounded over 459 vehicles since the beginning of 2012, in a bid to stop commuter operators from picking up passengers at undesignated places.
These operations have so far failed to bring sanity to the capital’s streets.