Home » Legal and Judicial Affairs » Mandimbandimba – Menace On the Rise

In August and September 2012, authorities — including the Zimbabwe Republic Police and Harare City Council — decided to put a stop to a scourge of touts threatening to overrun Harare’s public transport system.

Known as “Mandimbandimba”, the touts harassed public transporters, the commuting public and even law enforcement officers and “made a killing” collecting illegal fees from operators.

Eventually, the bouncers, that were reportedly being run by a cartel of dubious political figures, lost the war as the police won.

However, as illegal pick-up and drop off points for public transport become a common sight as commuter omnibus operators, cabs, pirate taxis and private vehicles jostle for passengers going within or outside the capital city, the bouncers are back.

Some of the illegal pick-up points are not new and have evolved into unofficial ranks.

Reports of individuals andor groups taking over running them have surfaced amid concern of the return of “Mandimbandimba”.

“Mandimbandimba” is a derogatory term used to describe thugs who pose as rank marshals terrorising commuters and public transport operators at the Fourth Street, Copacabana and Market Square termini.

In 2012, the thugs reportedly collected fees from each and every kombi leaving the ranks as they racked as much as US$1 000 daily.

In the latest development, the thugs have moved to the city peripheries targeting illegal pick-up points for commuters travelling to Marondera, Mutare, Murehwa, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Chinhoyi and Bindura among other termini.

The termini are along Robert Mugabe Road behind the Roadport International Bus Station, paMbudzi along Masvingo Road, Second Street, Showgrounds, Westgate and Samora Machel Avenue.

According to Tinashe Chipomhu, a tout who works behind Roadport along Robert Mugabe Road the mandimbandimba are back.

“Yes mandimbandimba are back but this time we suspect they are working with officers from the Harare City Council police officers and even officials from the ZRP traffic section,” he said.

“They are constantly moving around town and when a vehicle is impounded in front of the travelling public it is driven off ostensibly to Harare Central Police Station but you are rarely taken there as they are after your money,” he said.

The transport operators, according to Tonderai Merusi, are usually charged US$10 before being released and getting assurance of no further arrests for the day.

“They are not taking our money immediately but are taking us to the police to pay fines. They say they are working for city council and so we do not argue with them.”

Touts at the Harare Show Grounds expressed similar sentiments accusing the city council police of sending their emissaries who are harassing them on a daily basis.

“Every day we have to pay them between US$50 and US$100 to operate from here. We think they are moving with mandimbandimba or have become the mandimbandimba themselves because they come in plain clothes sometimes twice a day and after normal working hours,” said a tout who refused to be identified.

The touts also indicated that there were close to seven different police teams operating at the rank in shifts.

“We are however, not sure from which station they come from. We are not sure if the rank is monitored from Milton Park or Harare Central and any group can come here. We are also suspicious of some who claim to be plain clothed police officers as they could be bogus,” said another tout.

Touts at Westgate Shopping Centre and operating along Lomagundi Highway confirmed the return of mandimbandimba who work in cahoots with council police.

“This is a mushikashika and so when police come we expect them to just be doing their job but there are people who raid this place three to four times a day claiming to be council employees and claim between US$40 to US$80 or threaten to impound our vehicles,” said Mako.

“These people are taking our money to buy their own cars to put on the road. We are scared if we do not pay we will be out of work and there are no other jobs so we have to.”

At the illegal pick up point for Mutoko-Murehwa commuters said they had not experienced any difficulties yet as they have only heard of rumours indicating the return of the dreaded mandimbandimba especially at the Fourth Street terminus.

“We have heard of their return but we are still safe here. We only have problems from constant raids by the ZRP traffic,” Danmore Musenzi said.

“The police are here every day and make us pay fines for illegal parking.”

His colleague named Tawanda added: “Each time we load here we pay US$10. Our bus leaves twice a day so that is US$20.”

Another tout called Richard said life was difficult operating from mushikashika.

“We even budget the money for fines but right now it is hard to get customers as people are not travelling a lot these days.”

Harare City Council principal communications officer Mr Michael Chideme said they were unaware about the alleged return of mandimbandimba.

“Council does not condone corruption. Council will investigate the matter and report appropriately,” said Mr Chideme.

“If any of our staffers are found on the wrong side of the law — action will be taken.”

He however, confirmed that council was working closely with the ZRP and other law enforcement agencies to bring normalcy on the roads.

“The aim in conjunction with all stakeholders in the transport sector is to rid our roads of pirate taxis and illegal movement of public transport vehicles.”

Mr Chideme added: “Once our officers find a vehicle that is loading or dropping off passengers at these illegal points they clamp and tow it away to the storage yard.”

ZRP Harare Provincial Spokesperson Inspector Memory Pamire confirmed that the police are working with City Council to remove kombi operators from undesignated and illegal loading areas.

Inspector Pamire, however, refuted the allegations that ZRP had plain clothes officers who were issuing fines to kombi operators at various mushikashika.

“When we conduct our operations, all police officers will be in ZRP uniform. Even when we are working with council the police will be in ZRP uniform,” she said.

She added :”We (ZRP) want these vehicles off the roads because most of them are not registered and insured and therefore should not be ferrying passengers.”

According Inspector Pamire, ZRP had received few complaints of police officers taking money and said those were excuses used by those who want to justify not following the law.

“If kombi operators have money taken from them unlawfully, they must report the incident to the nearest police station,” Inspector Pamire instructed.

Mushikashika is a result of the numerous unregistered transport vehicles according to Inspector Pamire and she added that “ZRP is not going back on working to get these vehicles of the road.”

She aised public transport operators to get their vehicles registered and insured to avoid complications with the law.

Urban Commuter Omnibus Operators Association president Mr Simbarashe Ngarande said that they had been negotiating with council to establish more ranks.

“Council has aised that the number of registered vehicles in their records can fit the allotted ranks. We are therefore urging all operators to be compliant and register with the council so that our concerns become justified,” he said.

“Our members have been working hand-in-hand with council to get kombis operating from these mushikashikas to comply with regulations and use official ranks.”

According to Council regulations impounded vehicles go through a vetting exercise for licence discs, previous road traffic offences.

If it is a kombi, Zimra will check whether the operator pays tax while the vehicle will be checked for road worthiness among other defects that may pose a public danger.

It remains to be seen whether authorities will be able to deal with the menace of mushikashika, but one thing is certain — mandimbandimba are back and claiming the old “glory” of notoriety.

Source : The Herald

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