Edgar Maguranyanga Traffic Friday
ORLANDO Pirates FC, a dominant South African football franchise, is diversely nicknamed, “Buccaneers” and “Sea Robbers”, among other names. The legendary (and somewhat detestable) human skull-and-crossbones insignia is the basis of the club’s eminent official badge.
How befitting for the real pirates in days gone by, that the fear-provoking human skull-and-crossbones were the notorious, real pirates’ emblem of mortification.
The creepy symbol emphatically sums up what a true pirate represents; danger, mayhem, disaster, murder and life on-the-edge! My respectable Macmillan dictionary ably describes a pirate as a bootleg, or bandit, outlaw, crook or robber. I would like to add criminal, thug and felon (a commonly used word in USA criminal language to depict a serious offender).
In Zimbabwe, in 2013 though, for me, pirate conjures up one image only; the unlicensed, plenty, second-hand, imported ex-Japanese vehicles (ex-Jap) that unlawfully and with a lot of mayhem, ferry fare-paying passengers on the notorious City-Avondale-City route, for example, but generally criss-cross the length-and-breath of Zimbabwe.
I think, and with good reason, the “pirate” taxi may be fairly labelled any of the above descriptions — and worse!
The usual ex-Jap vehicle, in my book, is actually imported into Zimbabwe in a reasonable, good-health condition . . . Talk of the Toyota Ipsum, the Nissan Elgrand, the Toyota Regius, the Toyota Estima, the Toyota Noah, the Toyota Raum and maybe the commonest of them all; the Toyota Spacio.
Typically, it is imported by the common man bidding to make an extra dollar by (illegally) using/abusing it for any-and-all tasks, for which, in most cases, it is clearly incompatible.
The types of vehicles mentioned above, characteristically, are each designed by the manufacturer to be a run-around inexpensive family or starter car; and would be absolutely fantastic for the light task such as the school-run or the shopping errand and even the occasional city-to-city highway trip at a modest speed. But for utter neglect and vulgar abuse, the ex-Jap quickly deteriorates into a lethal jalopy.
In any case, the uncontrolled, free-for-all currently obtaining in the taxi/passenger-ferrying business dissuades the few truly legitimate taxi operators from staying on the straight-and-narrow; what’s the point of getting fully-licensed, at a cost and a hassle, when you can completely abstain from all formalities and get away with it?
The demanding, legal requirements before one may lawfully ferry a fare-paying passenger include the operator’s licence, the passenger insurance, the vehicle insurance, the driver’s medical certificate and the re-test, the certificate of vehicle roadworthiness; commonly called “fitness” and the city of operation demands a route authority and so on!
Granted, days are hard, very hard, for most citizens. Therefore to survive, in ghetto jargon, we hustle-and-bustle, tino kiya-kiya; as by any means necessary we try and make an extra dollar. It is concluded that this recent version of pirate taxi was untimely born in 2010 as a direct hustling consequence!
Remember that famous year? In South Africa 2010 is like 1994; an unforgettable year. See, when football’s wonderful road show pitched next door, the uneducated expectation was that zillions of tourists would pass by Zimbabwe to sample our offerings.
Obviously the average tourist has enough excess cash to hire a little car to fulfil his touring mission.
Alas; for a myriad of reasons; business and or political; that dream aborted (some unkind estimates declare that not even one Fifa World Cup 2010 tourist visited Zimbabwe in 2010), leaving a scattering of miserable taxi trade investors to pick up the pieces! The pirate taxi was born from such business ruins.
Somehow, these investments had to make money, by hook or crook! And fast! As they say, the rest is history.
If truth be told, the Zimbabwe Republic Police has an incredible, enviable arrest record, by many standards, especially for serious crime. How many times do we fearfully read in the paper of a lawless gang of armed bandits on-the-loose, pillaging and even lustfully forcing themselves on defence-less women and girls?
No sooner than they embark on their risky escapades than they are arrested with the unlucky ones sent to an early grave for living by the sword, after a typical, fiery, ZRP crackdown on what is clearly an intolerable crime in Zimbabwe. That is just an example of what I perceive as world-class efficiency — and to think these coppers are poorly resourced?
It is Traffic Friday’s call that our cops apply the same energy, resourcefulness and dedication to duty to stopping the now widespread “Road Robbers” — the pirate taxis that can steal not only your money and other personal paraphernalia but even your irreplaceable life itself.
They have done it before and will do it again. The pirate taxi’s typical driving is speed, speed and more speed. The loading is always, without exception, over-loading!
And the drink-driving pirate taxi driver can never be ruled out! But this festive holiday; Traffic Friday can just smell a difference; it may just not be a free-for-all thuggery on the roads as the authorities from Transport, the police and other stakeholders have upped the ante. But of course, walking the talk is another ball game altogether!
Judging by a recent Chronicle news report; the police have clearly made their point. They have “banned”, forthwith, the illegal use of the ex-Jap. The harsh move comes after a series of deadly accidents involving ex-Japanese cars on the country’s roads.
Police spokesman, Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi lays the law; “From the onset, as the Zimbabwe Republic Police, we have always maintained that pirate taxis are (were) not allowed to ply the country’s highways. Ex-Japs, whether licenced or not — are not suitable for public transport.
“I want to warn all those operators that the long arm of the law will take its course. Whoever is caught transporting members of the public will be arrested as these vehicles have put the lives of people at risk,” he said.
It remains to be seen if the police are all-bark and no-bite. Unhappily, for the cops, when they disregard the ex-Jap’s wayward behaviour, they end up with the unpleasant task of picking up the pieces; literally, of human body parts.
The cop haters point fingers at the police as villains who drool at the sight of the scarce green-back and twist the rules for a backhander. We believe though that this Christmas may just be different. It’s a crazy year that has seen a whole Commissioner of Police beaten down, humiliated and stripped of his badges for improper conduct.
Who then is the ordinary constable, or sergeant (who commonly forms the beat on the road) to be beyond a dishonourable discharge from the force?
We want it off the road this holiday, that killer-car! The hope is that Festive Season 2013 would smash the records; with a never-before-seen plunge in the number of RTAs and fatalities.
In fact, like that gigantic local mining concern, we subscribe to — “Zero Harm is Possible” — yes, we dream of a miracle, fatality-free festive holiday!
As ZRP Traffic, hopefully, enforces the law, it remains for you and me to drive watchfully — body, soul and mind — completely on the road.
Thank God, it’s a Friday; let’s keep the driving, this weekend, and for all times; as in the popular cartoon song; “happy, happy; happy-happy- happy!”
Gerald Maguranyanga moderates Road Safety Africa, on www.facebook.com/RoadSafetyAfrica, an interactive page that solicits ideas to curb road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe and Africa. Contacts: WhatsApp only – +263 772 205 300; email: firstname.lastname@example.org