PIRATE taxis, mostly ex-Japanese vehicles such as Toyota Vitz and Honda Fit models continue to be a menace in Bulawayo.
Sadly, police and other relevant authorities seem to have failed to remove these taxis from the city’s roads.
Most of the pirate taxis are either mounted with fake number plates or have no number plates at all.
Some of these vehicles are driven by unlicensed drivers.
An estimated 2 000 pirate taxis are operating in the city of Bulawayo affecting council’s plans to implement the proposed Public Transport Policy (PTP).
The council’s PTP was supposed to be launched in May this year but differences among commuter operators saw the local authority shelving the launch.
The pirate taxis are pushing registered kombi operators out of many routes.
Commuter omnibus operators pay Zimra presumptive tax of $150 per quarter, a route approval fee of $88, passenger insurance of $225, kombi third party insurance of $87 per quarter, a route permit of $75, certificate of fitness of $20 per entry and an operator’s licence fee of $140.
There is also the loss of life and property associated with pirate taxis.
Bulawayo Public Transport Association (Bupta) chairperson, Mr Albert Ncube, said pirate taxis have literally killed the business of registered kombis in the city. “Honda Fit pirate taxi operators have totally destroyed our industry. We are actually appealing to Government in this new dispensation to help bring sanity in our city following the proliferation of these unregistered operators. Our business has gone down and we are now making about $15 a day because of the stiff competition from operators who are not even paying anything to the council or Government,” he said.
Mr Ncube said pirate taxis have created several illegal pick up points in the Central Business District.
He queried why the relevant authorities were not acting on the pirate taxis while their space is being invaded. “We have raised this issue on several platforms but no one cares to listen. We are failing to work and eventually we will also fail to pay the Government, which relies on us for revenue. Imagine, we have to get an operator’s licence, you need a certificate of fitness from the Vehicle Inspection Department and you need insurance for the vehicle and the passengers. Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) wants their presumptive tax,” said Mr Ncube.
He said the fines were not deterrent enough hence pirate taxi operators continue plying city routes after paying the fines.
Bulawayo City Council’s senior public relations officer Ms Nesisa Mpofu told The Chronicle that they have intensified the crackdown on unregistered taxis.
“Council is clamping and impounding pirate taxis as per dictates of statutory instrument 63/2015. We have joint operations which are underway involving our municipal police and Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP),” she said.
Ms Mpofu said they have impounded several pirate taxis, which were taken to Ross Camp Police Station while others are kept at the Bulawayo City Council’s main stores in the industrial area. “Some of the impounded motor vehicles are not registered in terms of the laws of the country whereas others use fake number plates. They are being referred to ZRP Vehicle Theft Squad, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID),” she said.
Ms Mpofu said most of the drivers operating pirate taxis were unlicensed.
“As council we will continue to intensify our operations until normalcy returns. Registered operators will continue to get support and protection they deserve from the council,” said Ms Mpofu.
She said the local authority can only allow Honda Fits to be registered as metered taxis.
“There is no law that allows them (Honda Fits operators) to carry out commuter omnibus service. They are not allowed to conduct stage carriage. If they continue to operate as commuter omnibus they are illegal and there are no plans to regularise them,” said Ms Mpofu.
A survey conducted by The Chronicle revealed that the war between pirate taxis and registered ones is far from over.
The survey also showed that some of the private vehicle drivers are former kombi drivers who perhaps quickly adopted the, “if you cannot beat them join them” attitude. “I used to drive kombis until I realised that business had tremendously gone down and my employer would give me peanuts as commission. I was then forced to look for a Honda Fit to operate and it’s much better,” said Mr Langelihle Ndlovu who touts for passengers near the Bulawayo Main Post Office.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) National Traffic Branch has come up with an 11-point commitment plan to improve relations with members of the public.
In a statement recently, the Officer Commanding National Traffic, Senior Assistant Commissioner Isaac Tayengwa, said police have since launched an operation to bring to book drivers who operate vehicles without registration number plates.
He said through the plan, police are making a commitment to shun practices such as withholding motorists’ driver’s licences without the written consent of the owner, detain motorists at roadblock sites unnecessarily and inconveniencing law-abiding motorists, among others.