The “Ngongonos” or Knockers have resurfaced again on the streets of Harare. These truncheon wielding traffic control officers who have earned the moniker “ Mangongongo” from touts and drivers manning the illegal undesignated bus stops strewn all over the city center commonly referred to as “Mshika,shika” are bearing down hard on errant kombi drivers and touts.
According to one Emmanuel, a Kombi driver who plies the Quendon, Westgate route in and out of town and uses the undesignated bus stop at the corner of Mbuya Nehanda and Jason Moyo, “These traffic officers are not only smashing windscreens, but have graduated to smashing tail lights and head lights also, as well as the driver and touts who happen to be in the range of their Billy clubs”.
Civilians are in constant fear of their lives as these illegal Kombi drivers will perform daring stunts in order to evade capture by the baton-wielding officers of the law, who will impound vehicles caught on the wrong side of the law or in some cases, according to Emmanuel, “they will demand a hefty bribe of about $50, which you either pay or risk getting your vehicle impounded, so running away is the better option as money is hard to come by these days”.
Lincoln a student at the Harare Polytechnic who boards Kombis at the “Mshika, shika” said “they had now learned that one does not tarry at the door when boarding a kombi as one can be injured or get run over as kombi drivers try to evade capture”, it is unfortunate that most commuters are not as nimble or agile and so they are in constant danger.
The City council is also in pursuit of errant drivers and will impound vehicles as well and they have been alleged to also collect their own bribes, so touts have to be extra vigilant and keep watch for any council police who maybe on the prowl. Last year a four-year-old boy lost his life, after being knocked down by a driver trying to evade capture at Park Street and Union “Mshika, shika”.
Despite the dangers posed by these undesignated bus termini, one wonders why they are thriving so much and seem to be a permanent eyesore in the city center. According to one commuter who uses these bus stops, “We have no choice because at the designated bus stops we are charged double the normal fare during peak hours, and during non-peak hours the kombis take hours to load as they are fewer boarders so one is forced to spend a lot of time waiting for the bus to fill up as they only go when the bus is full”.
Kombi drivers exploit these illegal bus stops because according to one undercover traffic officer who declined to be named, most Kombi drivers use the Mshika, shika because their vehicles are not properly registered or have been condemned at the Vehicle Inspection Department and deemed un road worthy so it is a way for them to make quick money as they can operate their vehicles from these illegal points as they are not allowed to operate from designated bus terminus.