More than 300 touts and rank marshals were arrested Thursday by police in Harare in an effort to restore law and order at bus termini in the capital as the the city's deputy mayor admitted that the situation is now out of control.
The arrests came days after Harare’s charge office commuter omnibus rank became a mini war zone pitting soldiers and rank marshals. The soldiers went on the rampage after their colleagues were allegedly attacked by touts last week.
National police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Oliver Mandipaka told Newsday newspaper the police arrested 308 touts after receiving numerous complaints from commuters and shoppers about the touts’ rowdy behavior.
Police were not immediately available for comment Thursday but Harare Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Chiroto said his council is powerless and has "lost control of the situation because of political interference."
The deputy mayor said the city has “failed to handle the situation in Harare regarding the rank marshals and touts" who are said to be linked to the vigilante Chipangano group.
Chiroto said there “is nothing much we can do as we don’t have arresting powers".
However, Precious Shumba of the Harare Residents Trust said the lcoal authority is “morally corrupt and the residents have lost confidence in the city fathers".
He said there is a lot that the council can do which include terminating the contracts of some of their employees, like that of Jim Kunaka who is linked to the notorious Chipangano youths.
Chipangano, widely regarded as a Zanu PF gang of thugs, has been accused of wreaking havoc in Mbare high density suburb and local bus ranks.
Chiroto said: “We are dealing with Jim Kunaka, it’s not just one person. We can only deal with them if they commit these crimes during their working hours.
“If they are to be engaged in politics after work, if they go about doing whatever they do (outside working hours), there is no basis of firing them.”
Kunaka has already said he is not a member of Chipangano.
Shumba said most councils have failed to develop policies that respond to residents’ concerns.
“Issues of the breakdown of the rule of law are a symptom that has been exacerbated by a group of councilors who are unwilling to make the right decisions,” added Shumba.