BULAWAYO has seen an apparent increase in the number of touts at bus and kombi terminuses, with travellers complaining over the use of foul language and public indecency.
The touts are found at both designated commuter ranks and illegal pick-up points in the city.
The touts who are mostly youths harass passengers and, in some cases, extort kombi operators and when they get an opportunity, they steal from travellers.
They can be found at their workstations early in the morning already drinking beer and hurling insults. Most uri_nate in public.
A Chronicle news crew yesterday observed a number of touts operating at some points around the city centre.
Along Leopold Takawira Avenue near Mac’s Garage and at the corner of Gwanda Road and Samuel Parirenyatwa Street, the news crew observed touts scouting for commuters while playing cat and mouse with the police.
Other touts were seen at the corner of First Avenue and Harare road targeting long-distance travellers.
There have been calls for police to bring the touts to book.
A hitch-hiker Mr Irvine Mpatiwa who was looking for transport to Masvingo near Mac’s Garage told the news crew that there is a need to clear all touts from the streets as most of them steal and force travellers to board their preferred vehicles or buses.
‘‘Police should make sure they remove touts from the streets. Some of them pretend to help us with our luggage while stealing from us. As travellers we have the right to choose the type of transport we want to board but these touts force us,’’ he said.
When the news crew went to Renkini just before noon, most buses were just parked and there were a few travellers.
At the corner of First Avenue and Samuel Parirenyatwa, Ms Sharon Ndlovu who wanted to travel to Ntabazinduna said the touts mainly target women.
She said she prefers to hitch-hike because it is faster to get transport there.
‘‘Touts target mostly us women, harassing and using foul language. These touts also steal from us. As women we are ambushed by these touts as they do not give us the freedom to choose the transport we want to use. They force us to board some cars that we would not want to board. We hope the police will be able to arrest many of them so that we are freed from abuse,’’ said Ms Ndlovu.
She added that a video that has been circulating on social media showing a woman crying while being harassed by touts is an example of the threats women face everyday at terminuses when they want to travel.
Police have arrested four touts who were filmed manhandling the woman at Beitbridge’s Dulibadzimu bus terminus last week.
Maxwell Kamuda (42), Lazarus Chingova (44), Michael Mlambo (35) and Worry Muranda (40) were captured on video harassing a woman who defenselessly cried for help.
The video went viral.
In a statement last week, Police Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said bus operators must not employ touts and people must be free to board buses of their choice.
He urged the public to report all incidents of harassment by touts at bus termini.
“The ZRP applauds all Zimbabweans for the co-operation and concern over the conduct of the touts. The public is urged to report all incidents of harassment by touts taking note of the location, date, time and the name of the bus company involved,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
“Passengers have a right to board public transport of their own choice without being manhandled or forced to board a particular bus or kombi against their will. As a result, we have intensified surveillance and monitoring of all bus termini and ranks in the country. In this regard the law will be applied without fear or favour.”