Thousands of commuters in Bulawayo are stranded as commuter omnibuses pulled off the road earlier Thursday following clashes with the police.
Bulawayo’s biggest terminus for local commuters, popularly known as Godini, which is always teeming with commuter buses and commuters, was deserted from just before lunch time as commuter operators suspended their operations in protest against alleged harassment by traffic police.
A driver, who only identified himself as Themba, told Studio 7 that police had been distressing them, fining them excessively for minor offenses and also asking for bribes.
He said, “The problem is that the police ask for a lot of things even when you have most of the things that they require, they will still charge you. They are saying they want us to produce re-test certificates and all.”
He confirmed reports that what sparked the clashes between the police and the commuter drivers was an incident in Thursday morning in which two police officers were beaten up by a group of drivers and touts after they had boarded one commuter bus with the intention of impounding the vehicle.
Studio 7 was not able to reach police for comment.
The standoff left thousands of commuters stranded. The few commuter buses that were operating hiked their fares taking advantage of the crisis, and many commuters blamed the police for failing to properly deal with the issue.
A woman, who only identified herself as Mrs. Moyo, said she was worried because her baby was crying consistently as she had been waiting for a commuter omnibus for over three hours.
“There is no transport here. We have been waiting but there is no transport. The policemen are chasing the commuter drivers away so there is no transport to go home. Some kombis are now charging a dollar one way, which is double the fare that we normally pay,” she said.
Clashes between police and commuter drivers have often resulted in running battles that have at times resulted in fatal accidents.
Freelance journalist, Crispen Ndlovu, was briefly detained while taking pictures of the police-commuter bus drivers' stand-off.
Elsewhere, Zanu PF Central Committee member, Killian Sibanda, Wednesday evening won the party’s primary election and will represent his party as a candidate for Nkulumane constituency following the death of Thamsanqa Mahlangu last month.
Sibanda beat former Bulawayo mayor, David Ndlovu, in closely contested poll which was fraught with allegations of irregularities.
Sibanda will file his nomination papers when the Nomination Court sits Friday at the Bulawayo Magistrates Court.