ZANU PF youths eye lucrative pirate taxi ranks: Inside the mshika shika transport business.

Staff reporter

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unroadworthy pirate taxi

 

Following requests by ZANU PF youths that they want to be put in charge of bus termini in the central business district of Harare, Breakingnewszw has gathered that the bus termini are a ‘cash cow’ for ruling party ‘chefs’ and other criminal elements looking to make a quick buck.

Ruling party youths made this request last week through their leader Innocent Hamandishe who said “Cde President, the youths are saying, with the level of violence in the city, can we be allowed to manage the ranks (bus terminuses) so that we can control this chaos? We want to deploy our youths as rank marshals”

The bus ranks are seen as ‘cash cows’ owing to the cash collected at these sites on a daily basis. In 2015, Harare City council fired ZANU PF activist Jim Kunaka who was said to be collecting $4000 on a daily basis from buses using the Mbare bus terminus. Instead of remitting the cash to the local authority, Kunaka would keep some of it for himself and allegedly passed the bulk of the loot to ruling party chefs.

The racket to control bus termini involves ruling party activists, security officers, council employees and ruling party bigwigs. Touts collect money from illegal taxi operators which is then shared amongst the people involved from the tout to the person who controls the bus terminus.

Milling at the ‘mshika shika’ as the illegal pick up points are known along Jason Moyo Avenue in Harare this reporter witnessed one transport operator being interrogated by police who wanted to impound his car. Meanwhile other transport operators across the road were going about their businesses without a hustle.

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police officer questioning a pirate taxi driver

Breakingnewszw caught up with the driver who was being interrogated who was reluctant to talk about his ordeal but revealed that to avoid being harassed by police one has to pay a fee to runners who collect the revenue on behalf of the police officers.

“If you do not pay the rent (fees) required here, it is very difficult to operate a taxi here” he said.

Every car leaving the bus terminus pays $1 to a tout ‘hwindi’, the person who loads passengers into the car. From that amount $0.50 is then remitted to whoever has rights to that bus terminus through a Rank Marshall. Touts take home at least $15 on a daily basis.

To ensure that there is money for everyone, the taxis are forced to carry six passengers with each passenger required to pay $0, 50. Those who have already paid their pass fees do not expect any trouble from police as they are allowed to pass police Checkpoints without any questions asked.

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police officer riding in an overloaded pirate taxi

Most of the ranks are controlled by senior police officers, soldiers and ruling party officials. Council say they are powerless in dealing with this matter as efforts to clear the streets of these illegal taxis have failed.

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police officers waiting for pirate taxis on the Town- Avondale route

The touts who work at these ranks give each other turns to work.” We all have shifts and give each other turns to works. I work only on Mondays and Fridays” said one of the touts who refused to be named.

This video filmed secretly by the investigations desk shows a policeman seated in the front of an overloaded vehicle where the driver and the other passenger discuss the drivers ordeal with police.

Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo promised to rid the city of these transport operators but the situation has  gotten worse. Addressing parliament Chombo said “We had a meeting last week with Commissioner General on this matter and there is going to be a blitz very soon so that we check these cars and what they are doing in the city centre”

Despite these bold pronouncements by the minister, the pirate taxis continue to flood the city centre. Harare City Council director of communications Michael Chideme was not available to comment but an official at Town House said council was not receiving any revenue from touts and rank marshals collecting money at these illegal pick up points.

She said that council is not doing anything about flushing out the illegal pirate taxis as this is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. However despite increased police presence in the business district these pirate taxis have continued to operate with police said to be disrupting the business of those that do not pay their “pass fees”.

With council authorities denying that they receive any of the money collected by rank marshals at these illegal pick up points, it is a mystery in whose pockets the money collected end up in. Perhaps the ZANU PF youths want a share of the ‘loot’.

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