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File pic: Touts hanging on a kombi

Commuter omnibus operators are urgently calling for the removal of touts from ranks, with council officials being urged to take control and address the prevailing chaos that often leads to overcharging and harassment of passengers.

The demand comes as the establishment of Public Transport Associations is still underway, more than a year after President Mnangagwa allowed commuter omnibuses to operate independently of ZUPCO.

In their submissions to the Harare City Council, the chairman of the Harare Passenger Transport Associations Apex (HAPTAA), Ngonidzashe Katsvairo, emphasized that if the council fails to act, the government should step in.

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Katsvairo highlighted the need for the council and government to ensure the proper registration of legally operated and guided associations through a statutory instrument.

“As part of the city’s SME sectors and ease of doing business as well as service delivery policy, we humbly request that the council, in line with the Ministry of Local Government directive of February 2023, take control of ranks by manning them with municipal or traffic police,” Katsvairo stated.

He further added, “Instead of council just collecting rank fees and leaving operators and crew at the mercy of rank barons. The officers’ mandate will be to ensure only public service vehicles with City of Harare permits and rank discs are permitted within CBD ranks,” he said.”

Katsvairo expressed concerns that touts or rank marshals extort money from kombi operators for ranks that do not belong to them, despite the operators having paid for permits and rank disc fees to the council.

“Using the extorted money, the touts engage in drugs and substance abuse at ranks with drivers and then start harassing and abusing passengers who include women and school girls,” he revealed.

He further explained that drivers, conductors, and commuters face harassment on a daily basis from these illegal touts or rank marshals, who exploit operators by taking a significant portion of their hard-earned profits even after the operators have paid for council rank discs.

To improve the situation, Katsvairo proposed the installation of boom gates and perimeter fences at the entrance and exit of ranks to ensure that only compliant operators have access. He also emphasized the need for proper sanitation facilities, lighting, and shades at the ranks to ensure the health, security, and well-being of all users.

The call from the commuter omnibus operators seeks to address the long-standing issues caused by touts and rank marshals, aiming to create a safer and more regulated environment for both operators and passengers. It remains to be seen how the council and government will respond to these demands and work towards implementing the proposed measures.

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