via Zanu PF youths accused of extortion – DailyNews Live 30 December 2014 by Chengetai Zvauya
HARARE – Zanu PF Harare youths led by controversial Godwin Gomwe have been accused of extorting up to $3 000 per day from commuter omnibus (Kombis) drivers as guarantee for protection.
Moses Mutyasira secretary- general of Indigenous Commuter Operators Association said the party activists, had invaded Market Square, Copacabana, Rezende and Fourth Street bus termini demanding $1 from every commuter bus driver for every trip.
“We are now being forced to pay these touts who are claiming to be Zanu PF youths, working under the instruction from their leader Gomwe.
“They are also claiming that they have the blessing of the First Lady Grace Mugabe who has also approved that they can do so as part of their empowerment programme,” said Mutyasira.
He added; “We are encouraging the operators to refuse to pay these fees as we are against people being fleeced of their money.
“We don’t want to see the return of anarchy in our bus ranks.”
Gomwe is Zanu PF youth chairperson for Harare province.
Mutyasira said his association which has over 1 500 members countrywide, had faced similar problems in the past year with the group known as “Mandimbandimba and Mahwindi”.
The touts and marshals are “runners” for a shadowy group known as “Mandimbandimba” that controls kombi ranks and charges operators for carrying passengers.
In the past, they were working with Jim Kunaka former Zanu PF Harare province youth chairperson.
“They have returned again and have literally taken over the running of the commuter ranks sideling our rank marshals. The operation intensified during this festive holiday,” said Mutyasira.
He added that the Zanu PF youths were operating under the guise of Urban Transport Association of Zimbabwe (UTAZ) collecting an average of about $ 3 000 daily through their extortion operations.
Felix Mpofu, secretary for UTAZ disowned the group saying they were actually having problems with the party activists masquerading as touts.
“We are aware of the problem of people who are collecting money from kombi drivers and with the help of the police we shall be chasing them away as they are causing problems.
“We don’t want to be involved in the politics they are doing of associating their acts with names of politicians,” said Mpofu.
Cosmas Mbonjani, chairperson of Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators said the youths were back at the ranks and extorting from kombi drivers.
“We are facing challenges of Madhimbadhimba and Mahwindi who are back in our ranks again.
“They are forcing themselves upon us demanding money. It is like we are back to the 2012 situation where they had taken over the bus ranks.
“We are appealing to police to arrest them. The last time they claimed they were working with Jim Kunaka. This time around they are talking of a different name” said Mbonjani.
When contacted for comment, Gomwe denied that he was behind the criminal acts being perpetrated by the party youths.
The youth leader defended his party, saying Zanu PF youths were disciplined.
“I am not in Harare right now but I don’t know the people who are doing that.
“I am not involved in any way in the criminal activities as I am a law-abiding citizen.
“These are people who are trying to tarnish my name and image together with that of the First Lady.
“In any case, where does the First Lady’s name come in?” questioned Gomwe who blamed MDC youths for the activities.
“Every day at the ranks, there are touts. Are you saying that they would have been sent by me?
“The kombi drivers must report these people to the police.
“I don’t deal with Mahwindi or Madhimbandinba” Gomwe said.
In 2012, police rounded off touts at the ranks as part of a blitz to rid the city of rank marshals and touts who were terrorising commuters and extorting money from kombi operators and arrested 308 rank marshals.