Traffic authorities in the city are still to act on Statutory Instrument 41 targeting hitchhikers. Gazetted in April, the regulation prohibits hitch-hiking within 500 metres of newly erected No Hitch-Hiking signs with arrests attracting a fine of up to $200.
Harare has been struggling to contain pirate taxis, which are in the habit of using illegitimate loading areas. Many residents had hoped that the new traffic guideline would be a solution to the mushikashika (illegal pick up and drop points) menace.
Traffic authorities such as the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) had announced that the arrest of people who use mushikashika would start as soon as the ‘No Hitch-Hiking’ signs were erected, but no significant action has been taken despite signs having been installed in June at several points in town.
Tapiwa Mashingaidze who is the chairperson of the Commuter Transport Development Network Zimbabwe (CODENET) – an organization that is licensed by council to operate a rank for Bindura-bound kombis at the corner of Sam Nujoma Street and Fife Avenue – believes that the arrest of passengers who use illegal pick-up points will eradicate the problem of mushikashika.
“Most kombis that use legitimate ranks such as ours are struggling due to mushikashika. This is mainly due to lack of enforcement by traffic authorities. For example, a ‘No Hitch-Hiking’ sign was placed here before the robots at Herbert Chitepo Ave in June. But passengers continuously board at the illegal bus-stop and have not been arrested,” complained Mashingaidze.
Mashingaidze added that council also needs to make sure that they place the ‘No Hitch-Hiking’ signs at the mushikashika hotspots so that people who use illegal bus-stops can clearly see that they are committing a crime.
“Traffic authorities should concentrate on arresting hitch-hikers because people who use mushikashika are the ones who are promoting this menace. There is also a need for vigorous campaigns that involve all stakeholders in the transport sector so that everyone becomes aware of the new regulation,” added Mashingaidze.
It seems that most people who use illegal pick-up points are unaware of the law that prohibits hitch-hiking. Samuel Paradzai (27) from Mabvuku who was spotted trying to board a kombi at an unauthorized stop along Robert Mugabe Way confirmed as much to Harare News.
“Most people, including myself, do not know that it is now a crime to board taxis at mushikashika points. But that law is definitely difficult to enforce because people who use illegal bus-stops are looking for cheaper transport. You cannot then expect them to be able to pay the fine. I guess jails will be overcrowded in the end,” said Paradzai.
When contacted for comment Michael Chideme, the City’s acting corporate communications manager said that council was still in the process of erecting more ‘No Hitch-Hiking’ signs, “We have already put up some signs and we expect traffic authorities to now do their job and arrest hitch-hikers.”
Image: No Hitch-hiking sign along Sam Nujoma Street.