TOUTS at Fourth Street bus terminus in Harare are wreaking havoc, assaulting and harassing travellers on the Harare-Mutare highway resulting in many losing valuables.
BY SOFIA MAPURANGA
On Wednesday, Benita Gonese, Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Economy Association’s (ZICEA) Manicaland territorial president was severely assaulted around 4pm at the bus terminus by one tout and the matter was reported to the police under RRB number 3108262.
Gonese, who sustained a swollen lip said she was approached by a mob of touts while she was walking along Robert Mugabe Way, who started grabbing her bags. One of them then started assaulting her. She reported the matter to the police leading to the arrest of the tout, who is expected in court today.
A police officer at Fourth Street, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the challenge with the behaviour of the touts was that they were being shielded by bus operators plying the route.
“There is competition for travellers and these touts are being paid by bus drivers and conductors to assist them get business. They then harass travellers forcing them to board their buses,” the police officer said.
“It is true that we are receiving a lot of complaints from the public and these touts are becoming a menace.”
Various travellers, who spoke to NewsDay Weekender expressed bitterness at the conduct of the touts, whom they described as morally bankrupt.
“They are working in cahoots with the bus operators because once they start harassing you, they force you to get in a bus under the guise that the bus conductor is helping you, only to then tell you to buy their ticket to your destination,” one traveller aboard a Beta bus said.
One man, who was left visibly shaken from one incident and who was travelling to Rusape, had all his money stolen. He pleaded for donations from other passengers and raised only $3, which he used to paid for his journey.
“They operate as a mob and they will target anyone carrying a bag and who shows that they are travelling the Harare-Mutare route,” the man said, claiming he had lost $35 and his mobile phone to the touts.
One of the touts at the bus terminus said the majority of the touts were youths, some of whom are learning the ropes of the trade. He said others were retrenched following the 2015 High Court ruling, which sanctioned the dismissal of workers on three month’s notice.
“The majority of these touts are not experienced because some of them are here because they say they have no choice. Some were vendors and they had their goods confiscated by council police and they have no money to restock,” one conductor, Tawanda Ncube, said.