Toy­ota Wish’s reck­less drivers Zim­babwe’s new ‘se­rial killers’

The Herald (Zimbabwe) - - Feature - Lawrence Tichaona Man­genje Cor­re­spon­dent

Traf­fic Safety Coun­cil of Zim­babwe com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Ta­tenda Chin­oda said they had recorded an in­crease in the num­ber of Toy­ota Wish ve­hi­cles be­ing in­volved in ac­ci­dents.

FOR many cou­ples in Zim­babwe, the per­for­mance of cus­tom­ary mar­riage rites sig­ni­fies the begin­ning of a new life jour­ney for the two re­spec­tive fam­i­lies tied. In Septem­ber this year, love­birds Ta­tenda Muchemwa (27) and Ed­ina Ndarazi (25) took their re­la­tion­ship to the next level when they fol­lowed cus­tom and mar­ried dur­ing an event at­tended by rel­a­tives and friends.

Un­be­known to them as they cel­e­brated the new union was that fate had cho­sen their des­tiny. A few hours af­ter of­fi­cial­is­ing their mar­riage tra­di­tion­ally, tragedy struck, cut­ting their life jour­ney short.

Muchemwa and Ndarazi died when a “pi­rate” Toy­ota Wish taxi they were trav­el­ling in af­ter the mar­riage cer­e­mony veered off the road and rolled three times near the 49-kilo­me­tre peg along the Harare-Gu­ruve Road.

Now called Toy­ota “Witch” by many Zim­bab­weans, the car, pre­ferred by those who il­le­gally op­er­ate in many parts of Zim­babwe, is usu­ally driven reck­lessly as it races against time.

Toy­ota Wish, a com­pact multi-pur­pose ve­hi­cle pro­duced by a fa­mous Ja­panese au­tomaker, has a sit­ting ca­pac­ity of up to seven peo­ple, but, many “self-ac­cred­ited” trans­port op­er­a­tors have con­verted the ve­hi­cle to pi­rate taxis car­ry­ing up to 11 pas­sen­gers on var­i­ous routes across the coun­try.

It is con­sid­ered a fuel saver and is a per­fect choice for the road for many il­le­gal trans­port op­er­a­tors.

Sev­eral other ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing it have been re­ported.

In June this year, Zim­babwe Repub­lic Po­lice (ZRP) spokesper­son Se­nior As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Char­ity Charamba con­firmed an ac­ci­dent which oc­curred along Harare-Masvingo Road in­volv­ing a Toy­ota Wish.

The ve­hi­cle veered off the road and when the driver tried to control it, it got trapped un­der an Ea­gle­liner bus and four peo­ple died on the spot.

In April this year, six peo­ple died on the spot and one on ad­mis­sion at Rusape Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal when a sus­pected speed­ing “pi­rate” taxi, again a Toy­ota Wish, they were trav­el­ing in burst a tyre and col­lided with a lorry near Nyazura along Mutare-Harare high­way.

Re­cently, the driver of a re­port­edly over­loaded Mutare-bound Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxi failed to ne­go­ti­ate a curve and lost control. The car veered off the road, over­turned six times, killing one per­son and in­jur­ing nine in the process.

Sithokozile Matamo, a Karoi res­i­dent who fre­quently trav­els to and from Harare, said she would never board a Toy­ota Wish “pi­rate” taxi be­cause of its high ac­ci­dent rate.

“I will never travel in a Toy­ota Wish. The ve­hi­cles are al­ways over­loaded and they speed. I think drivers will be un­der the in­flu­ence of drugs to fend off com­plaints from pas­sen­gers when speed­ing,” she said.

Matamo said reck­less­ness on the part of the drivers causes ac­ci­dents.

“It is sur­pris­ing that Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxi drivers fre­quently carry over 10 pas­sen­gers and to worsen the sit­u­a­tion, they over­load lug­gage vis­i­bly shown by an open boot,” she said.

Lloyd Den­here, a fre­quent user - (File Pic­ture) of Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis along the Harare-Chirundu high­way, said reck­less driv­ing can­not be ab­solved from the blame for re­cent hor­rific ac­ci­dents.

“One of the con­tribut­ing fac­tors to the many ac­ci­dents in­volv­ing Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis is speed­ing. These young men (the drivers) speed while car­ry­ing many pas­sen­gers in an ef­fort to meet the tar­gets set by their em­ploy­ers,” he said.

“Some drivers do not ad­here to road rules, for in­stance they can­not even keep to their lane when driv­ing. They over­take un­nec­es­sar­ily in a bid to reach their des­ti­na­tions in time to meet the daily mon­e­tary tar­gets,” he said.

A driver of a Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxi that plies the Harare-Chin­hoyi route said they over­load to earn a liv­ing.

“We have no op­tion but to carry at least 10 pas­sen­gers on board de­spite the car’s ca­pac­ity be­ing seven. We have to meet the tar­gets set by our em­ploy­ers,” he said.

He added that the ex­is­tence of fake spare parts does not help the sit­u­a­tion.

“Our em­ploy­ers usu­ally do not buy new tyres, they buy sec­ond hand ones due to the harsh eco­nomic con­di­tions in the coun­try. A set of new tyres costs $400 bond while sec­ond hand ones cost $100 a set, so, they ob­vi­ously choose the lat­ter,” ex­plained the driver.

An au­to­mo­tive engi­neer, John Tam­bi­rai, said the Toy­ota Wish is un­fit for mass pub­lic trans­port as most of mushika-shika drivers are reck­less.

“The en­gine is a pow­er­ful one and if the car is driven by some­one who does not abide by traf­fic rules and reg­u­la­tions, then a lot of problems are bound to oc­cur. The en­gine has a ca­pac­ity to speed from 0-100km/hr in 11.3 sec­onds, so just imag­ine the power it has. In fact, such a car should not be used for pi­rat­ing,” he said.

An­other au­to­mo­tive engi­neer, Clossby Mushai, said the ideal use of a Toy­ota Wish is for pri­vate not pub­lic trans­porta­tion.

“The car is too light, the body it­self is way too light to be used for pub­lic trans­port and when it is over­loaded it lacks bal­ance. The Gov­ern­ment should in­ter­vene in this is­sue of Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis be­fore more in­no­cent souls are lost,” he pointed out.

Traf­fic Safety Coun­cil of Zim­babwe (TSCZ) com­mu­ni­ca­tions man­ager Ta­tenda Chin­oda said they had recorded an in­crease in the num­ber of Toy­ota Wish ve­hi­cles be­ing in­volved in ac­ci­dents.

“The en­try point is that pi­rate taxis or mushika-shika is il­le­gal. The law re­quires pub­lic ser­vice ve­hi­cles drivers to have cer­tain qual­i­fi­ca­tions such as de­fen­sive driv­ing, a valid med­i­cal cer­tifi­cate and to be at least 25-years -old. But now there seems to be a bla­tant dis­re­gard of traf­fic rules and reg­u­la­tions cul­mi­nat­ing in this Mushika-shika epi­demic which is killing peo­ple around the coun­try,” ex­plained Chin­oda.

He said mem­bers of the pub­lic should avoid us­ing Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis for trans­porta­tion.

“We have black­listed pi­rate taxis, par­tic­u­larly the Toy­ota Wish, and also ad­vise mem­bers of the pub­lic not to board those ve­hi­cles, if they do so it will be at their own risk.

“The power of the pi­rate taxis is in the pas­sen­gers, so the pas­sen­gers must shun them,” said Chin­oda.

Zim­babwe Repub­lic Po­lice Spokesper­son Se­nior As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Paul Ny­athi said po­lice had launched an op­er­a­tion to stop Toy­ota Wish taxis.

“There is cur­rently an op­er­a­tion to get rid of pi­rate taxis and the Toy­ota Wish is no ex­cep­tion,” said Ass Comm Ny­athi.

He ad­vised the pub­lic to avoid trav­el­ling on Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis.

“We im­plore mem­bers of the pub­lic not to use them as a mode of trans­port be­cause if they do, they will be putting their lives at risk,” he said.

To curb the in­crease in road traf­fic ac­ci­dents, Gov­ern­ment through the in­ter-min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee on dis­as­ter man­age­ment, is craft­ing a cock­tail of mea­sures to deal with fac­tors caus­ing road ac­ci­dents.

Speak­ing af­ter Tues­day’s Cab­i­net meet­ing, Trans­port and In­fras­truc­tural De­vel­op­ment Minister Joel Big­gie Ma­tiza said dras­tic mea­sures were needed to deal with neg­li­gence, dis­re­gard of traf­fic reg­u­la­tions and lax­ity on law en­force­ment.

An old adage says “driv­ing slowly and be­ing cau­tious does not de­lay peo­ple from reach­ing their own des­ti­na­tion, but ac­ci­dents do”.

It is against this back­ground that Zim­bab­weans should be very se­lec­tive in the trans­port they choose on many high­ways across the coun­try as the Toy­ota Wish pi­rate taxis have be­come the new “se­rial killer” in town.

SEVEN peo­ple were killed in April this year, while six oth­ers were se­ri­ously in­jured when a Harare-bound Toy­ota Wish col­lided with a truck at the 203 km peg along the Harare-Mutare high­way.

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