Kombi crews in Harare are living up to their bad reputation by failing to see the demarcation between entertainment and sheer noise, as they play excessively loud music in their vehicles, causing disgruntlement among some passengers. Whilst DVD players and car radios have generally made journeys more enjoyable and feel shorter, the abnormal use of these is irking many commuters.
Tinotenda Garande, who commutes from Sunningdale into the City every day for work, said, “I once suffered a ringing sensation in my ears for the greater part of my day after disembarking from a kombi where loud music was being played. It’s so annoying.” He added that some kombi crews are arrogant and often unsympathetic to complaint. He recalls hearing them respond to requests to turn down the music with rudeness including ‘you are boss at your workplace but not here,’ or ‘munomboitanezweimukoma?’ – meaning ‘what do you do?’ and implying that one is a member of the security forces such as a police detail – whom many kombi drivers fear and loathe. Garande says that most of the music played is Zimdancehall, and sungura in some instances.
Another commuter, Simbisai Mbayo said the idea of playing music in kombis is fine but the problem comes when they do not know the difference between entertaining people and just making noise. “To put it simply, too much of anything is not good. This is what is called an over-dose in the circles of medicine.” she said. She added that what surprises her is that when one complains, other commuters may not back you, leaving you open to all sorts of insults. She went on to say in several cases it is the commuters who cry out ‘put more watts!’ – that is to say increase the volume, perhaps to its fullest.
Often the kombi drivers are not thinking of their passengers at all. Fanwell Chiwetu, a kombi hwindi/tout who plies the Kuwadzana-City route, said playing music in his kombi, especially gospel, helps him ease the stress and tensions associated with his job. “Our job can be straining. Imagine waking up very early, spending most of the time standing, shouting, and shoving with other crews for passengers. Music helps me cool down my emotions” he said. He added that as for him, he likes playing it low so that he communicate with his clients as to where and when to make drop offs.
Lovemore Chiutawo, a kombi driver servicing the Waterfalls-City route, said he is used to the loud music, and for him it is not just noise. He says that when clients raise concern about the volumes, he always complies with their orders and turns it down. “Being exposed to certain environments makes one adapt to those surroundings. As for me, my sense of hearing has been strained – probably for life. I am now very comfortable in noisy areas. However one should always consider the peace of others,” he said.
Student and daily commuter Edwin Nyambudzi says that “Whether these are private vehicles or not,the fact remains that they carry members of the public, and so the kombi crews should adhere to the city by-laws that deal with noise pollution.”
Though City of Harare noise by-laws do not by definition cover noise in vehicles carrying members of the public, under the City of Harare noise by-laws Act 12/73, these drivers are prohibited from playing music so loud as to cause a nuisance.