The recent increase in the price of a Peugeot 504 station wagon from $39 642 to $77 046 has left many people wondering whether the government is now trying to phase emergency taxis as this is the only car now suitable for this since the 404 version is no longer being assembled locally.
This is particularly so when one considers that the Mazda 626 station wagon which was then the most expensive locally assembled car, and is not suitable as an emergency taxi, only rose from $51 241 to $68 573.
Or is this a warning to operators to switch to the Mazda since it is likely to be more available if plans between the Japanese car company and Willowvale Motors come to fruition.
Emergency taxi operators believe the government may be planning to phase them out -at least by putting cars out of their reach- as it seems to be abandoning its original idea that emergency taxis be operated by their owners, thus creating jobs for themselves.
The new move will ensure the status quo where big business now owns most of the emergency taxis and employs drivers most of whom do not even know who their real boss is.
This also raises another thorny issue, that is, whether there is one Zimbabwe Republic Police force operating in the country. Any Zimbabwean, especially one from Bulawayo, is amazed at the way police in the capital are so lax. Bulawayo looks like a police “state” once one has been to Harare.
Emergency taxis in Bulawayo are only those with red numbers. If one has yellow numbers he is pirating and he gets tickets galore. Police in Bulawayo do not hesitate to enforce the law -not that they should not- but simply that the law should have a human face to it.
In Harare on the other hand, it is very rare to see an emergency taxi with red numbers. It appears anyone with a car is entitled to operate an emergency taxi.
At the “ranks” the emergency taxis can double or even triple park without any hassles. One even finds cars parked in the middle of Baker Avenue while the owner goes shopping at the supermarket nearby. All this is taboo in Bulawayo.
A complaint by one magistrate, for example, that operators were making a lot of noise outside the court building and were thus disturbing the learned magistrates from concentrating on their cases led to increased reinforcements.
The funny thing though is that there is no police training school in Bulawayo. Everyone is trained in Harare.
This drives one to think about the “bambazonke” syndrome. Are police in Harare generally lax and those in Bulawayo generally harsh or is it that those in Harare are forced by circumstances to become lax and at the end of the day corrupt as well.
Are we going back to the old saying of “Harare yakavakwa netsvete” which literally, today, means “the capital thrives on bribery and corruption?”