Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/17/13
POLICE manhandle a bus driver on allegations of contravening traffic rules on Independence Avenue in Mongu last Friday. – Picture by MACKSON WASAMUNU.
…as 21 unruly drivers are arrested in Chainda
By CLAVER MUTINTA
MINIBUS drivers yesterday staged a protest in parts of Lusaka against alleged harassment by traffic authorities, stranding hundreds of commuters, some of whom were forced to walk to work.
And police apprehended 21 protesting drivers in Chainda for throwing stones.
Police fired tear gas canisters to disperse hordes of drivers and commuters in Lusaka’s Lilanda, one of the hotspots of the protest.
The drivers feel they are being unfairly treated by the Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) and traffic police.
But RTSA spokesperson Mercy Khozi-Mwila said it was unfortunate that the drivers were protesting against the law.
“It is regrettable that they are protesting against legality. What our officers are doing is within the confines of the law,” she said.
Mrs Mwila said the misconduct of drivers, especially picking passengers and dropping them at undesignated points, is illegal and if the drivers are found wanting, they must pay a fee according to the law.
She said she is confident that a solution will be found, adding that the doors are open for dialogue between drivers and RTSA.
Mrs Mwila said the decision taken by RTSA to enforce the law is meant to ensure that the transport sector operates normally and safely.
On the arrests, Lusaka Province police commissioner Joyce Kasosa said the drivers were rounded up for causing commotion.
“We have talked to the bus owners and they are in support of what we are doing. We appeal to all members of the public to help us to maintain order on the roads,” she said.
In Chainda, the drivers were persuaded to resume work.
But in Lilanda, police fought with drivers who threw stones at the officers as they were patrolling the area. Some buses and cars were damaged in the confusion.
An eyewitness only identified as Ms Mwaba, who was caught up in the fracas as she left an internet cafe, said the situation was bad and that she and other people were choked by the tear gas.
“When the police fired tear gas canisters, people scampered for safety and some fell and got injured,” she said.
At the junction of Great North Road and the road leading to Mandevu, police dismantled barricades erected by protesting minibus drivers.
The drivers used tables and other inflammable objects, with intent to set them ablaze. But before they set the barricades on fire, police officers dispersed them and removed the barricades.
The officers advised the drivers to protest peacefully and allow other motorists to use the road.
They warned that should the drivers inconvenience other road users, police would be compelled to use minimum force.
“Don’t stop other vehicles from using the road…stop your colleagues and not innocent motorists….where do you want the motorists to go?” one of the police officers said.
Some drivers parked their buses, forcing commuters to walk into town. The drivers created a cordon across the Great East Road, stopped buses carrying passengers into town and ordered them out.
The passengers were forced to walk the rest of the journey. Some commuters trooped into town carrying luggage on their heads while others had babies strapped to their backs.
A Chisamba-based businessman George Kunda, who was frustrated by the protest, said: “This is bad… we had already boarded the buses and the drivers told us to drop.”