Touts in Harare have vowed to remain on the streets in the face of renewed efforts from authorities to remove them.
Council has over the years been engaged in running battles with touts whom they accuse of causing unnecessary congestion by loading kombis at undesignated points popularly known as mushikashika. At its peak last year, the battles between kombi crews and authorities resulted in many casualties as kombis tried to flee away from traffic cops by all means possible.
The increase in cases of injuries and deaths during kombi chases led to a massive outcry that forced traffic cops to stop using spikes. However, traffic cops recently resumed using spikes in order to bring sanity on the roads reportedly in preparation of the upcoming SADC summit to be held in April.
Council and ZRP traffic cops have been engaged in numerous operations since January to remove touts from the streets, a move which is being met with resistance from touts. One tout who operates at the corner of First Street and Robert Mugabe said that touts were now employing every trick to avoid arrest.
“Nowadays the situation is tense because traffic cops are coming hard on us but, we will not go anywhere. They should give us jobs first before driving us out of the streets. How do they expect us to live,” queried the tout while speaking on condition of anonymity.
Zimbabwe has been experiencing an economic meltdown for the past decade which has seen the country having a high unemployment rate that has been put at over 90% by some. Another tout identified as Sinyoro who works at the corner of Cameroon Street and Robert Mugabe Way said that touts were on the streets to stay until government manages to create alternative employment.
“They (government) should know that there are no jobs and it is not by choice that we are touting, if they provide jobs I do not think there could be such confusion on the streets. Personally, I have a diploma in Mechanical Engineering but I have been failing to get a job since graduating in 2004,” explained Sinyoro.
Sinyoro said that he earns an average of $10 per day from his touting work which enables him to take care of his wife and three children, “As touts we are just here to try and make a living in these hard economic times and by driving touts out of the streets authorities would be condemning many into poverty.”
Another tout interviewed by 263Chat who operates along Sam Nujoma Steet at the illegal pick-up point for Bindura bound kombis said that they have since devised strategies to try and counter the traffic cops.
“We are now touting from inside and all windows should be tightly closed because the traffic cops are now daring to the point of jumping in through the window. The other thing is that you should take a close look at every potential customer and we mainly look at dressing and hair style. Any potential passenger suspected to be police or council should not be allowed to get into the kombi,” narrated the tout who was speaking on condition of anonymity.
Over the years, Harare has been battling to deal with congestion which is now common in the City. Council has identified kombis that load at mushikashikas with the help of touts as the main causes of congestion in the CBD and much effort have been put to put a stop to all illegal activities in the City.