Unemployed youths in Mbare are fleecing money from commuter omnibus (kombi) operators who divert their routes from the main roads through the neighbourhood to avoid police roadblocks. The youths block the roads with huge boulders or massive logs demanding a ‘toll payment’ from commuter drivers, charging them a dollar to pass through their neighbourhood.
A kombi driver who operates a commuter from the CBD to Glen Norah, Tendai Karibeti said, “The youngsters refuse to let us pass through without payment so in the end we just give them the money because it’s much better than paying spot fines.” He said the many roadblocks on the road make it almost impossible to operate profitably so they use alternative routes whenever possible.
Parents in the areas are concerned about their children’s safety with the increased number of kombis passing through their areas. Mbare resident Collin Savanhu said, “Kombis are always racing through our neighbourhood which is not acceptable or safe especially in our high density areas.” He said kombis have persistently been known to operate outside of traffic laws endangering lives.
Another resident Locadia Mazani said, “The youths who collect the tolls mostly use the money on alcohol and drugs, which is not good for our community. We implore the authorities to do something to stop this.” At the ‘toll’ the youths are visibly drunk, sometimes consuming their alcohol openly. Empty bottles of a cough syrup used as a drug, known as ‘Bronco’, are a regular sight.
In their defence the youth claim the kombis are destroying their already deteriorating and neglected roads. “It is our roads that they use to for their overloaded kombis, so as a community we are entitled to some payment,” said one of the youths who preferred anonymity. When asked if a few youths are the community he said, “At least some people are benefitting.”