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Zimbabwe's Chitungwiza Town Calm After Clashes Over Traffic Fines

Some touts hanging on kombi windows in Chitungwiza on Tuesday following clashes between the police and kombi drivers. (Photo: Councillor Mutingwende)
Some touts hanging on kombi windows in Chitungwiza on Tuesday following clashes between the police and kombi drivers. (Photo: Councillor Mutingwende)

Clashes between commuter omnibus drivers and police that took place in Chitungwiza Tuesday have subsided, but the atmosphere remains tense as drivers question the hefty parking fines that the town's city council introduced recently.

The drivers say the fines are depleting their profits, as are corrupt traffic police who they say often demand bribes at road blocks.

The Chitungwiza Residents Trust (CHITREST) condemned the move by Chitungwiza municipality and Clyna Africa of increasing parking fees, which led to the unrest in the town.

The clashes left many commuters stranded and unable to go into Harare for business.

"Although the situation is calm there are still unfamiliar cars that are milling around and many suspects they are operatives in plain clothes and this has prevented some vendors from going out to display their wares for fear that the chaos may irrupt again," said Khumalo.

Some Chitungwiza residents have criticized the way police handled the peaceful strike saying the tear gas that was detonated to keep protesters at bay could have been avoided.

Khumalo also raised concern over the impact of the increases on other people like informal traders who got caught up in the clashes and failed to conduct their daily business as they were stranded due to lack of transportation. Khumalo said many lost valued revenue at a time most parents are preparing for the opening of schools next week and need school fees.

One of Zimbabwe's opposition parties, the Movement for Democratic Change led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, also expressed concern in a statement released Wednesday, where it condemned condemned the brutality that was shown by the police force and suspected Zanu-PF members, also accused of escalating the chaos after trying to stop the ominibus drivers from striking.

"We unreservedly condemn the police heavy handedness in the brutal clampdown and the throwing of teargas on commuter omnibus operators in Chitungwiza yesterday," the statement read.

The statement went further, to also appeal for calm.

"The MDC appreciates the efforts by local authorities to bring order and sanity in urban transport sector, but we add that it is advisable for councils and commuter omnibus operators to engage in dialogue and come up with a peaceful way to bring order in our urban areas."

Efforts to get comment from the Zimbabwe Republic Police were fruitless but some press reports quote police saying while the strike was peaceful, it was unlawful.

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