Last year the Zimbabwean government for no particular reason I can think of decided to create a transport crisis in Zimbabwe. Claiming they wanted to protect the public from COVID-19 they banned kombis and at first, we understood. We were at the height of the first wave and thought the ban was temporary. Later they took the inexplicable step of making the kombi ban permanent.
Instead, they hauled out their tired and woefully inadequate ZUPCO monopoly and gave it the sole mandate to ferry passengers to and from the CBDs around the country. It’s a well-known fact that ZUPCO doesn’t have the capacity to ferry all commuters to and from these CBDs each day and yet the powers be continue to sink their heads in sand and pretend this is not the case.
The kombi ban has actually created two crises in one single stroke. All the young and able-bodied tens of thousands who were employed in the sector suddenly found themselves without a job in the midst of a pandemic. Those who owned kombis were compelled to be unequally yoked with ZUPCO or risk operating illegally. It’s not even clear what value the ZUPCO partnership brings to the table for operators except delayed payments and endless bureaucratic nightmares.
Secondly, the banning of kombis has brought untold suffering to the wider public who are no safer than before the ban. They have to spent time in crowded filthy ZUPCO buses that are no safer than the kombis and do not even adhere to COVID-19 guidelines set by the government itself. Most have had to make do with illegal transport operators knowns as Mushikashika. There is more risk of catching COVID-19 as a result of this ban.
A law that doesn’t make sense
Zimbabwe authorities have a habit of being hard of hearing and passing laws that make little sense without consulting the relevant stakeholders. For lack of a better term, we will call them stupid laws. That’s the only scientific term I can come up with to describe such laws I am afraid. Believe me I tried. I am a very respectful person who hates swear words but even I found myself using all sorts of adjectives in my mind. This label was the most palatable.
The government’s latest achievement is a $2000 ZWL fine that will be paid by passengers in a pirate vehicle. This beats Statutory 127 of 2021 in terms of ridiculousness but somebody somewhere thought this was a good idea. As many as 200 stranded passengers have been asked to pay the fine already.
Police are urging people to use ZUPCO registered buses only to avoid being arrested.
The move by police to arrest passengers was necessitated by an increase in robbery and rape cases involving these illegal transport operators.
We want to warn motorists and bus operators who are disregarding government directives that police will not tire until they bring all culprits to book.
Among the buses impounded were those found ferrying people from one City to the other taking advantage of the green light given to legal operators to ferry school children.
Police discovered that some operators ferried passengers from one City to the other who were not school children.
All local school children are urged to use ZUPCO registered buses and omnibuses only and police will be visible in all street corners and roads to monitor safe movement of legal transport operators.The ZRP’s statement on the new law.
Laws are meant to make people’s lives better
I don’t know what piece of legislation was pushed to make this law but I am almost certain it will not pass the Constitutional muster. How can you prove that someone getting into a truck is acting against the law? It’s one of those laws that’s dead on arrival like the famous “loitering laws” that were used against “ladies of the night.”
Good laws are meant to make people’s lives easier not hard for no apparent reason than to make something legal or illegal. Just because you have the power to pass a law doesn’t mean you should. In fact, the power to legislate is not limitless. It must be exercised within the spirit and letter of the constitution.
Unfair laws like this are almost certainly unconstitutional but the Zimbabwean government, like governments elsewhere seeks to exploit the fact that the wheels of justice are slow. By the time this law is thrown out by a competent court of law, it will be moot. People would have suffered under it.
Our only hope lies in the fact that like headless chickens the authorities will pass another equally silly law. A-la-SI-127-of-2021 and the police who are tasked with enforcing them will be so distracted trying to enforce this new silly and too tired to bother us on our way home.