Last month council announced a new by-law that criminalises the use of pirate taxis. The bylaw also penalises operators and passengers who hang from a moving vehicle following amendments to the Harare (Traffic) (Amendment) By-Laws, 2016.
The amended bylaw outlaws the use of private or public service vehicles to ferry passengers for commercial purposes without relevant documents. According to the new law, a passenger vehicle should have a road traffic permit, route authority, passenger insurance, an operators’ licence, a vehicle license, and a rank disc. Unfortunately many commuter operators have been ignoring these requirements.
Harare’s acting corporate communications manager Michael Chideme explained that no person travelling on any auto-cycle, motor cycle, or pedal cycle or in any goods vehicle, motor vehicle, omnibus, public service vehicle, taxi or any moving vehicle may cling to or attach or hang or suspend from such a vehicle when travelling on a public road.
“The amendment to the by-law empowers the City Traffic Enforcement unit to decisively deal with the menace of pirate taxis popularly known as mushikashika. The amendments also bar the driving or parking of heavy vehicles in the Central Business District before or after stipulated times and also the driving of heavy vehicles into residential areas,” explained Chideme.
Stakeholders in the transport sector have welcomed the move saying the by-law will definitely help in dealing with the pirate taxis nuisance. Tapiwa Mashingaidze the chairperson of the Commuter Transport Development Network Zimbabwe (CODENET) says that council should now concentrate on awareness and enforcement.
“It is good that council is now putting in place enabling laws to deal with unlicensed transport operators. However, it is high time that council involve all stakeholders such as police, kombi organisations, and passenger associations to raise awareness among all road users,” said Mashingaidze.
Other stakeholders have lambasted council for introducing a raft of laws without putting in place proper enforcement measures. President of the Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) Tafadzwa Goliati told Harare News that the new bylaws were an ineffective waste of time.
“The inconvenient truth is that it will not work. The City of Harare has been at loggerheads against pirate taxis for a long time. Mushikashikas can be phased out through practical and sensible solutions that understand the environment that has lead to their existence and the reasons why they have continued to exist as well as appreciating that some well-heeled members of society continue to invest into them.”
Goliati continued, “The City of Harare needs to engage all players in the public transport sector and come up with a strategy based on their inputs. No organisation is an Island – no matter how powerful. By engaging its individual and corporate citizens and using to an extent – some moral persuasion – city leaders may find a win-win solution.”
Isaac Mabasa (34) is a kombi driver who plies the CBD shuttle route agrees and explained to Harare News that Harare’s traffic problems are a result of poor enforcement.
“It seems authorities are now specialising on enacting more laws without proper enforcement. It is sad to note that this new by-law comes hot on the heels of another still to be enforced law that outlaws hitch-hiking,”
Chengetai Madhora (25) a kombi conductor from Epworth concurred with his colleague Mabasa saying that council should concentrate more on enforcing the existing laws rather than introducing more laws that might end up causing confusion.
“Many laws have been enacted in the past, but they have not been effective due to corruption. The main challenge in Harare is lack of enforcement rather than more regulations because the traffic act is clear on dealing with most road offences,” said Mabasa.
Image: Pirate taxis or ‘mushikashika’ operate illegally, are consistently overloaded, and notorious for reckless driving.