Over the last few years kombi drivers have become notorious on the streets of Harare. Being a kombi driver in Harare is definitely not an easy task considering the enormous pressures associated with the trade.
Kombi drivers have been accused of various offences which include using undesignated pick up points where some lives have been lost during high speed chases with authorities. However, for 30 year old Marvellous Chisango from Zengeza 1 in Chitungwiza, driving a kombi is like any other job.
Chisango has his kombi rank at the Charge Office and plies the Chitungwiza route. Like many others who go to work his day begins at 5am and he knocks off at 9pm.
“I spend most of my time on the road. My work time schedule is difficult because I can’t spend enough time with my family. But generally I have a good relationship with my family and they appreciate my job,” said Chisango.
On average Chisango, who works to an $80 target a day, said that he does between 12 and 14 trips daily between Harare and Chitungwiza. His pay is based on commission and per week he takes home between $80 and $90 depending on how many trips he has made.
“Being a kombi driver is not difficult for me because I am a natural driver. It is not by coincidence that I became a driver. I fell in love with driving at a tender age and after finishing my O-levels I could not think of any other career besides driving,” said the father of three.
Chisango has a class one driver’s licence and has eight years of kombi driving experience on Harare’s roads. According to him the ‘kombi problem’ is caused by unlicensed kombi drivers.
“Unlicensed kombi drivers are the ones who use mushikashika (illegal pick up points) because they cannot get into the ranks. As a driver with proper documents I cannot drive the wrong way down a one way street. I cannot risk having my licence cancelled for such silly negligence,” explained Chisango.
Chisango said that unlicensed kombi drivers are part of the problem. “I blame the police for letting unlicensed kombi drivers pass through road blocks yet if you have the proper papers, they try hard to find a fault and you end up getting fined for petty offences, such as failure to issue tickets to passengers.”
Chisango said that kombi drivers are faced with numerous challenges which include corrupt traffic authorities and unrealistically high targets given to them by their employers which creates a lot of pressure for them. “In some cases our lives are also made difficult by passengers who expect us to disobey traffic regulations for their convenience,” alleged Chisango.
The kombi driver criticised passengers who use mushikashika for making the kombi problem worse. “Some people use mushikashika because they are in a hurry but passengers should realise that those kombis that load up at illegal points are unlicensed. They are the ones that speed and endanger innocent lives,” said Chisango.
During his day off, which he gets once a week, he said he loves watching action movies and going to see his favourite team Dynamos play. However, he said his family sometime resent this since he spends most of his time at work.
As a parting shot, Chisango said that passengers should understand that when an accident occurs the driver is not always to blame as he has also got a family to take care of. “It is really sad when people lose their lives but people should understand that nobody wants to die and that includes me as a driver.”