Sanity at Tredgold . . . as mayor bemoans municipal police’s lack of arresting powers
ALL that was required was Chief Justice Luke Malaba’s voice to awaken the authorities out of their slumber and remove the nuisance at the doorsteps of Tredgold Building in Bulawayo where illegal money changers ( osiphatheleni) would plait their hair at parking bays and pavements as they go about their illegal business with reckless abandon.
Theories of connivance with authorities have been compounded and were not helped by the money changers some of whom would openly brag that they were untouchables as police officers would look at them with dismissive tolerance.
Call it corruption, yes it was, and some were known to be fronts for those supposed to bring sanity and it perhaps explain why both police and city council authorities were blind to the public eyesore and illegality that was happening right at the entrance of the building that is supposed to uphold the legal statutes of the country.
The building is where the city’s magistrate courts are housed and by nature of its place as part of an arm of the Government the Judiciary, must be revered and should not be seen to be the pot from where economic illegalities of such damaging reputation are brewed and nurtured.
It is a building known to determine and or redirect the lives of those who visit it as accused persons, and as such prisoners in prison garb with some in handcuffs and leg irons from Khami Maximum Prison, Bulawayo Prison (Grey Prison) and various police stations are not an uncommon sight while prison officers with guns are also as common as lawyers at the building.
Others will also be milling outside the building wearing white, long and lacy dresses, happy, for it is in the same building that marriages are solemnised and legally broken. In short the building is a hive of activity and those that work in it are not the common public. Their offices demand that they keep to themselves, not that they are extra terrestrial beings but their call of duty requires that they keep a distance from the madding commoners who may want to influence their work.
By the nature of the activities that go on at the building and the important people that work there, it is easy for anyone to suggest that it, like any other court buildings in the country should have some aura of reverence but no, Tredgold Building had lost all the respect. It is actually more popular than any other bus termini in town.
Yes, it is a public building but that should not take away its importance and the honour it should be accorded.
The building that is adjacent Innscor food outlets in Leopold Takawira Avenue was not only home to illegal money changers who acted as if they owned the place, but on the other side that is Fort St, commuter omnibus touts would be shouting “Nkulumane, Nketa Munyoro, Emganwini” and other suburbs along the route at the top of their voices.
They don’t do it in hushed tones to show some respect for the court proceedings that will be going on, they do it with reckless abandon and so much derision as if to laugh off the courts and everything they represent.
The building and all that it stands for had failed to impose itself and had until recently been treated less than the outside of a nightclub with ridicule and mockery that does not befit its social standing.
The pronunciation by CJ Malaba that it was “unhealthy” for such things to be carried out on the doorstep of the courts indeed jolted the reluctant authorities into action and they made easy the work of clearing the area although they have moved just a street away from the courts.
Judiciary Services Commission Acting Secretary, Mr Walter Chikwanha said the Tredgold Magistrates’ Court like what the Chief Justice had said, should not co-exist with illegality.
“Outside, there are a lot of illegal activities that are going on where you have pirate taxis, vendors, illegal money changers and there is a lot of noise as well. Having such activities happening outside the courtroom is really unprecedented and obviously unacceptable,” said Mr Chikwanha.
He said the effect of the disorder was that people would not have confidence in the justice system if illegal activities were allowed to take place at the doorstep of the courts.
“We are in discussions and engagements with the Bulawayo City Council for them to see how they can relocate some of the people so that there is some semblance of order outside that court so that even people who come to that court have confidence in the system,” said Mr Chikwanha.
Bulawayo police spokesperson, Chief Inspector Precious Simango, concurred that touts operating at illegal pick-up points and illegal foreign currency dealers at the Tredgold Building were a problem.
She said touts and forex dealers who have ensconced the Tredgold Building were a nuisance adding that the complaints by the Judicial Service Commission were quite genuine as both were disturbing court proceedings tussling for customers at undesignated pick-up points.
She said they have launched an operation code named “Flush out illegal foreign currency dealers” that was aimed at bringing sanity on the city’s streets and easing congestion at the area around Tredgold.
“We launched an operation code named ‘Flush out illegal foreign currency dealers.’ The arrest of osiphatheleni will be an ongoing operation until there is sanity. We want to sustain our maintenance of law and order in the city,” said Chief Insp Simango.
She, however, urged a multi-sectoral approach to the problem saying the police, the city council and the courts should work together to ensure there was normalcy.
“As police we will not sit back and watch that kind of lawlessness. We will descend on both touts and commuters who board the kombis at undesignated pick-up points. We have been doing that together with the city council. The courts should also help us by passing deterrent sentences on those convicted,” she implored.
Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Solomon Mguni said they have no problem dealing with pirate taxis and illegal parking around Tredgold. He said the handicap was that municipal police have no arresting powers and called on the powers that be to establish municipal courts and give municipal police arresting powers.
“Our problem is dealing with illegal money changers because our municipal police have no arresting powers. If our police had arresting powers and the city had municipal courts to prosecute offenders for blocking streets and pavements, it would be easier for us to enforce our by-laws. The answer here lies in giving our metro police all the powers of a national police force and creation of municipal courts which will enforce our by-law. Otherwise as it is, the money changers, vendors, pirate taxi drivers will continue playing cat and mouse with national police force to the detriment of public safety and decency,” said Clr Mguni.
“The kombis at Tredgold are exploiting the laxity of legislative enforcement mechanisms. As a city we are, however, making a lot of interventions as you know that Egodini terminus is now closed for construction and some of our termini are now within the city confines. We are working with the three companies running commuter omnibuses to urge their drivers to observe designated parking bays.
“We have problems with kombis which are unbranded and don’t belong to any of the three companies, Tshova Mbaiwa, Bulawayo City Transit (BCT) and Bulawayo United Passenger Transport Association (BUPTA). Those are the ones blocking the Fort Street and L Takawira Avenue.
“We have asked for national police to help our municipal police to enforce traffic rules at that place because, like I said our municipal police have no arresting powers which obtain in other cities like Johannesburg, South Africa. That’s our major challenge,” he added.
Clr Mguni said they were working on closing 6th Avenue to outgoing traffic and make it a one way inlet street so that they open 3rd Avenue as the one way outgoing street. This, they believe will take commuters further away from near Tredgold Building to downtown nearer to the outlet street. In that way, the Mayor says they will solve the problem of commuters parking along Fort Street and L Takawira Avenue.
“As for vendors and money changers, the national police must deal with that menace. The CJ had suggested that we close the section of Fort Street near Tredgold. The challenge with that is that we are talking about the heart of the city. We fear that there will be a lot of congestion in the CBD if we were to do that. We have, however, placed the issue before our town planning people for an opinion on the feasibility of such a measure. But in the interim we are pursuing the 3rd Avenue and 6th Avenue redesign approach to see if it works to our advantage,” he added.
Clr Mguni also said they were lobbying the powers that be to give the cities their full powers to enforce their by-laws so that they could deal with the menace of vending, illegal picking and dropping of passengers, blocking of streets and pavements as well as unregistered pirate transporters. That’s the way to go. As it is, our municipal police are a toothless bulldog in so far as traffic enforcement is concerned. We can only issue tickets, clamp and tow. Arresting and prosecution is for the police and courts of law,” said the Bulawayo Mayor.
Commuter omnibuses and touts loading commuters just outside Tredgold Building at the corner of Fort Street and Leopold Takawira Avenue on Friday (Inset: Tredgold Building area along Leopold Takawira Avenue after operation “Flush out Illegal Foreign Currency Dealers”