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Outlaws of the road

Zimbabwe’s roads are a death trap. Among the hazards that lie in wait are potholes, narrow highways, negligent traffic cops and lawless pirate taxi drivers. Guest blogger, Keith, tells his story.

Cat and mouse games
Cat and mouse games

A few days ago I was involved in the most terrifying high speed car chase. When I tweeted about it afterwards, a few of my Twitter followers responded with LOLs. If any of them had been on the kombi with me, they would not have found it funny.

I had to be at a conference somewhere in The Grange. I was pleased to arrive at the Fourth Street taxi rank to find the kombi three quarters full. A few minutes later, the kombi reached capacity and we were on our way. As we pulled out of the rank, the hwindi greeted us all, cracked a joke and asked us to pay. Naturally, we were feeling good-natured – it’s not often that hwindis are polite to passengers. But the good cheer did not last long.

Stop in the name of the law
Stop in the name of the law

The chase begins

Just before the traffic lights at Highlands Primary School, a police roadblock appeared before us. The police flagged down the kombi. I expected the driver to stop, pay his ‘dues’ and we would continue on our journey. What I didn’t expect was the driver gunning the engine and the kombi surging past the roadblock. What you must understand is this was a rust bucket of a vehicle, definitely on its last legs but, like a dying horse, it gave its all. Next thing, we heard sirens behind us and a motorcycle cop appeared beside us, frantically gesturing for the kombi to pull over. The second thing I wasn’t expecting was to hear the hwindi say ‘Calm down folks, he will turn around.’ I got the feeling that he and the driver had done this before.

I was however amused when the motorists in front of us pulled over onto the side of the road, paving the way for the chase to continue. They must have thought it was the presidential motorcade. I chuckled some more when the hwindi said ‘faster, he is catching up!’

Not so funny

However, reality struck when I missed my bus stop and we headed into the Glen Lorne mountain curves. This kombi was now in the 100s, going into 120 kilometres per hour and I could literally see my life flash before my eyes. The sharp turn up at 80km/h into Glen Lorne passing through Food Lovers Market unhinged me; I could feel my heart pumping, sweat dripping down my back and fear creeping up inside me. Behind us, the bike cop wasn’t giving up the chase.

I must say I really liked the police escort past Pandhari lodge and all, but in that whole area, there are trees on either side of the road, sharp curves and you could just feel the kombi about to crash.

The chase ends

After a series of hair-raising turns, the kombi driver managed to evade the police bike – thankfully. The driver apologized to each of us as we got off at our respective stops – polite of him – despite the fact that he almost killed all twenty-two of us on board. Sitting here now typing this, I can’t help but think the ZRP was evaded like a game of Need for Speed.

Food for thought

Who is at fault here? The policeman wanting ‘dues’ from every kombi that passes through a roadblock, or the driver fleeing the scene, to avoid paying the ‘dues?’ Or could it be the taxi owner who sets impossible fare targets for the driver? Or the hwindi who encouraged the driver to keep going?

Gambling with lives
Gambling with lives

These chases can end badly. Thankfully I lived to tell this story.

***

Keith, who goes only by a mononym, is a blogger and avid twitter user. Connect with him on twitter @Ndini_Keith

 

 

 

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