Zim’s moving coffins: The untold story of targets

A ZEBRA Kiss bus driver, Mike Makwara (49), was slapped with a two-year jail term for causing a fatal accident along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway at the height of a route war.

A ZEBRA Kiss bus driver, Mike Makwara (49), was slapped with a two-year jail term for causing a fatal accident along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway at the height of a route war.

Makwara was banned for life from driving heavy and public service vehicles.

On January 12, 2023, along the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway, Makwara was driving a bus belonging to Zebra Kiss heading towards Mutoko.

Another bus from Rimbi Travel and Tours was also heading in the same direction.

The Rimbi bus driver wanted to overtake but was blocked by Makwara who kept driving in the middle of the road and at times encroaching onto the opposite lane.

As a result of continuous obstruction, the Rimbi bus rammed into a tipper truck, killing the conductor on the spot.

All this was captured on a phone camera by a concerned passenger.

The video went viral igniting anger among citizens who condemned the bus driver’s terrible behaviour.

According to the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ), about 90% of road accidents are a result of human error.

“I admit that human error is the major cause of road accidents in the country but of late, the rate at which buses are involved in road accidents is alarming, there is more to it,” a director at Arrive Alive Awareness, Isaac Simbarasi said.

In April last year, a Timboon bus disaster claimed 13 lives in an accident that occurred between Chivhu and Murambinda due to speeding.

Since then, the frequency of road accidents on local roads has been unbearable.

A number of drivers, however, revealed that the issue of “targets” should be stopped since they cause bus drivers to operate under a lot of pressure.

“We work on targets and most of the times we are under pressure to achieve that or we lose our jobs,” said a bus driver who plies the Harare-Mutare route.

“My target per day is US$500 and I have to meet that. The employer gives me 10%of that. If I surpass the target, the remainder is mine. If I work for 10 days meeting that target it means I have US$500 commission, also the surplus is mine.”

According to the World Health Organisation, around 1,3 million people are killed each year on global roads, while a further 20 to 50 million are injured each year around the world.

In Zimbabwe, according to TSCZ, an average of five people die everyday on the country’s roads, with an estimated 2 000 people dying each year on the country’s roads.

Speaking during a visit to the Timboon bus accident scene, Transport minister Felix Mhona emphasised the need to have all buses installed with speed limit devices.

The call has, however, fallen on deaf ears as Zimbabwe’s roads have been turned into racecourses all in the name of meeting targets.

Pirate taxi drivers who ply the 74km Marondera-Harare route said they were forced to do five trips per day to meet their targets.

They drive the popular Toyota Pro-Box vehicles ferrying 11 people instead of five.

“Our target is US$50 per day and we are forced to do an average of four trips (to and from) per day. Four people are in the boot and each trip gives me at least US$26. From that I deduct US$3 for the touts, US$4 for the (Goromonzi) tollgate, US$3 to bribe the police at a roadblock, already I am left with US$16 without talking of fuel.

“I have to sacrifice one of two trips for the fuel, we have to speed to meet the target. The vehicle owner will be waiting for his full amount of money,” said a Pro-box mushikashika driver.

Instead of being given commission, pirate taxi driver are given a day to operate within a week for their remuneration.

“Most vehicle owners pay us by giving us the vehicle a day per week. So I have to maximise and get more money to add to the surplus I get during these six days. Some opt to give us 20%  of the total amount earned that month,” said the pirate taxi driver.

Mhona said government was mulling the introduction of a bus timetable system in a bid to deal with the rising deaths on the highways.

Passenger Association of Zimbabwe’s Tafadzwa Goliath said: "The bus timetable system is recommended as it stops bus drivers from competing for passengers. Yesteryear, for example, a traveller in Rusape would know that his or her bus would be at the rank at around 11am from Harare. It was systematic. The issue of money targets need to be investigated by authorities."

Government has failed to walk the talk on reining in speeding public transport drivers.

The highways have turned bloody due to accidents caused by speeding triggered by targets.

“For now, we continue to lose lives on the country’s roads if authorities do not step up and avert the problem being triggered by targets. It is now a common feature for a bus driver to hit the 140km per hour mark as they race at the mercy of innocent passengers,” Simbarasi added.

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