Public transport in Kabwe got paralysed on Monday morning after bus drivers protested against the illegal pirate taxis that have flooded the town, they claim the illegal taxis most of which are owned by senior government and police officials have deprived them of business opportunities as they are charging same or even less than their official fares.
The placard carrying drivers blocked Freedomway and vowed never to operate until the illegal taxis are removed from the streets. Riot police in full riot combat intercepted the protesting drivers at the corner of Buntungwa and Freedomwy with intention to harm the drivers, but realizing that the cops were outnumbered decided to cooperate with them even without a police permit for the protest.
They marched to district commissioner’s office where they demanded that with immediate effect illegal taxis should be abolished and DC Chishala said he would summon a meeting for stakeholders with the aggrieved drivers. The drivers said they were subjected to so many levies like PSV licences, council station levies, road taxes, painting of vehicles and yet at the end of the day they were denied to operate smoothly. They also accused the traffic police of mounting uncalled for road blocks to pave way for their illegal taxis.
“This is our business, our job but we cannot afford cashing that our bosses want because of pirate taxis, we always pay a lot of money to the government and local authorities but we are not protected,” said Bus drivers and taxis association chairman George Siwale.
But Pirate taxi drivers have also vowed never to move out of the street saying if President Sata legalized street vending why should they be removed. They said what they were doing was as same as street vending except that they were dealing in transport. A showdown is looming between the two groups and by press time Chishala was still in a meeting with stakeholders at his office.
“The president allowed street vending, what we are doing is transport street vending we also don’t have jobs that the PF promised us. If the drivers want to fight us they should be ready for a showdown, this is a free market economy, people must choose which means of transport to use,” said a pirate taxi driver from the shoprite taxi rank.