Holding bay a noble idea, but . . .
Isdore Guvamombe Reflections
Back in the village, in the land of milk, honey and dust or Guruve, Harare, which had just been born from Salisbury, was the capital of a young Zimbabwe.
After long years of deprivation and selective application of rule for black and whites, the coming of independence meant that everyone who had been deprived of the right to visit Harare could freely do so. Independence!
One of the major bus termini was Rotten Row. Rotten Row, which was on the foot of the Harare Kopje, was a spectre of hissing, huffing and smoke-puffing buses, that announced the hustle and bustle of Harare.
Touts and conductors climbed on top of buses, dropping parcels into shaky and spindly hands.
Thereafter, one-by-one the passengers trickled into the city centre to Market Square and then to elsewhere.
The other passengers proceeded to Mbare where they also connected to various suburbs and country destinations.
There was no congestion of the big buses in town. Conventional urban buses and taxis lined up in designated areas and pick-up points. Orderly!
Slowly, slowly Harare City Council lost it to the changing times and continued to live in the past while the transport dynamics changed on a daily basis.
First came the Peugeot 504s where passengers criss-crossed legs in the boot. Passengers packed like goods, especially during peak hours.
The advent of the kombis gave more skull-splitting headaches for the city fathers, who seem to have been left in sixes and sevens. Today the kombis, driven by genetically modified drivers – yes, genetically modified because one cannot classify them as normal people- have brought a buffet of problems.
Our roads have become self-service. They have designed self-service rules, far away from the national traffic one, turning roads leading to the city centre into traps and the city centre itself into a jungle.
Last week the City of Harare made its first ever serious move to decongest the Central Business District. The latest move, by the city fathers of Harare, to establish the holding bay for kombis is a welcome development, far away from the goat skinning antics the city council had wanted to employ. That the idea is to decongest the city centre is highly laudable. Great stuff!
The footprints of the launch of the holding bay are still fresh.
Even the winds of Harare have not yet wiped them off, the fine dust red soils of the copy area, just a spitting distance from the former Rotten Row terminus.
Yesterday, this villager drove along Rotten Row, the road he has known as a toddler as the major bus stop for passengers from the village.
The idea was to see how the holding bay worked.
The kombis released from the holding bay have become a menace, their drivers ignoring all traffic rules and speeding into town with reckless abandon.
That area has become a death-trap once again. The kombi drivers have already created extra lanes, from the demarcated ones.
They weave through traffic like a village veteran weaving a basket right into their loading places in town. Fetid!
For as long as the same guys drive the same kombis with the same attitude, the difference will be the same. The problem is the in kombi drivers, period. These are the monsters behind the wheels. At the rate the drivers are doing things from the holding bay, soon and very soon, we will have a serious accident along that stretch of Rotten Row.
The holding bay should not be seen as punishment by the kombi drivers but as orderliness. That a kombi has been released from the bay does not mean it should bolt like a man escaping from prison. No!
The future of the transport system in Harare and indeed in Zimbabwe lies in our ability to transform the minds and attitudes of kombi drivers.
We can do anything in this planet to improve the transport system but we will be investing into an abyss until we invest in rebranding our kombi drivers.
These young men have become real problems. They are the problem and should be dealt with and whipped into line. The problem is not in our stars, neither is it in our Gods or ancestors but in the minds of these kombi drivers.