Chaos in Harare as touts demand money from Kombi drivers to assist ZANU PF ahead of elections

Touts popularly known as "mandim ­bandimba € on Thursday the 8th of September 2012 are alleged to have  run amok in the city centre and assaulted kombi crews at the Charge Office bus terminus for resist ­ing to pay "protection fees €. The mayhem is reported to have started at around 7am when more than 30 touts arrived at the rank in top-of-the range vehicles including black BMWs. Most of the touts were donning black tight fitting muscle tops inscribed "SECURITY €, expensive black designer suits and corduroy suits.

They were demanding a minimum of US$3 per kombi per trip and opera ­tors had resolved not to pay protection fees, which they deemed illegal. Kombi crews that failed to pay the money were forced to offload passengers paving way for those who comply with the demands.
The drivers were forced to kneel down to beg for forgiveness while some passers-by were also attacked. Kombis that ply the City-Chitungwiza route were diverted to ferry passengers on the City-Msasa Park route. Some drivers had keys plucked out of the ignition in their vehicles by the touts.

Mr Jackson Mavhunga an eyewitness who also identified himself as a member of the Chiremba Road Omnibus Operators Association (CROOA) confirmed the incident in an interview with the Crisis Report Team and cond ­emned the acts saying the behaviour exhibited by the touts was unacceptable and unruly.

"These guys are now beating us because we cannot pay the protection fees of more than US$3 per trip. We do not even know the reason why they want payment and from whom they want to protect us from. Our members have been working very hard to start businesses of their own and we are being bullied everyday in full view of the police. Our rank is close to the police sta ­tion and we have tried to report to the police who are taking ages to react. Why can't they tell us who to approach for help and arrest these guys, € said Mavhunga.

Another witness Mr Alfios Manjanja said the situation was getting worse every day and this is a cause for serious concern.

"Things are now out of control and these guys continue to force us to pay money which they say is going to be used by Zanu-PF in the forthcoming elections. They always boast to us that orders are coming from high offices in the gov ­ernment and they are at ranks to enforce orders from above. We are afraid of taking the law into our hands and fight them. They come wearing badges, crème and green berets inscribed Zanu-PF. We comply with their demands because of fear. These guys force us to give each one of them US$30 in the morning which they say will go towards their lunch and the other to the party. They are living luxurious lives from doing nothing and leave us without anything, € he said.

The country is experiencing an upsurge of violence perpetrated by Zanu-PF but there has been no meaningful reaction from the police which translates to negligence of duty and dereliction of their responsibility to protect innocent citizens. Curiously the Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri continues to remain silent on perpetrators of violence lending further credence to allegations that these terror groups have protection and blessing from the highest level.

Terror groups started as a small fire that many thought would simply go, however the penchant for violence by ZANU-PF was underestimated and militia groups are alleged to have grown into well organised and oiled violence machinery. These terror groups represent a new kind of organised violence that can easily plunge Zimbabwe into chaos if not attended to.

In another show of abuse of power, Mbare police banned an MDC-T rally which was scheduled to take place in Sunningdale on the 9th of September 2012, claiming that the rally could not proceed because of an international football match between Zimbabwe and Angola on the same date. The police defended their move by arguing that they do not have the manpower to monitor the two events.

We call upon the police to act as a professional law enforcement organ by exercising its duties in a non-partisan manner. At the same time there is need to put the police under pressure so that they take action against terror groups for letting them work scot free without respecting the rule of law.

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