Combis back despite Covid – related ban

Nyasha Chihwai

Return of the problem child

It is now business as usual for some kombi operators on different routes in and around Harare, despite the government’s continued ban on their operations due to the coronavirus.

Difficulty and tough as it is for them to operate due to heavy police presence in and around the central business district, the kombi boys, are as ever ready to play the cat and mouse game with their longtime rivals as they are striving for survival on the road.

“Kumba hakuchagarike wangu, toto fira mundima (home is no longer a
pleasant place to stay, I would rather die on the track)”, said Shingi, a driver
servicing the Domboshava route.

ln a typical war defense mechanism style, almost all the operating kombis
are now covered with some wooden boards as window covers, and not the
ordinary glass, due to constant smashes by policemen using their famous button sticks.

Kombis are using alternative routes to ferry their clients into the central business district, avoiding the police roadblocks, while others are said to be paying some bribes dubbed “tollgate fees” to the forces manning the
roadblocks, thus for as minimum of US$5 a kombi can be given a privilege
of a free passage for the whole day without any major obstructions from
that particular police roadblock.

The re-emergence of kombis has rekindled the unholy police and kombi
drivers corruption candle as the caught and arrested kombis only disappear for a moment only to resurface later after paying bribes of
between US5-10 on allegations of unlawful operation amongst other
changes at stake.

The return of the kombis has also led to the re-emerging of the unofficial rank
marshals famously called mahwindi who now not only operate as kombi
loaders, but now double as spys and informers for kombi drivers who call
them seeking for police checks before arriving in the central business
district on different loading points, mainly undesignated.

When the Freight Forwarders Magazine visited an undesignated rank at Trek garage along Leopold Takawira street yesterday, it was a rat-race-fashion as
the hwindis were jostling for prospective clients.

Some kombis are operating on the roads without registration number
plates so as to avoid easy tracking by the police, which is however a high
risk to potential customers and even the traffic police officers on the roads

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