Lusaka local route bus drivers on Tuesday protested at Central Police over alleged unfair impounding of their vehicles by officers.
And bus drivers lamented that police officers had been asking them to pay K450 each time a bus is impounded in a day, without issuing receipts.
But Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo says he will make an informed statement after talking to both the police and the bus drivers.
In an interview, the aggrieved drivers accused police officers of harassing them as early as 05: 00 hours and pocketing the monies that they pay as fines.
“Our vehicles have all the papers and you find that the police impound our buses as early as 05:00 hours and bring them to central police. And for us to have them released, we are required to pay K450. Where can one get that amount at 05:00 hours? How many vehicles have not paid road taxes but operate freely on the roads and police are only focusing on contravening? Government should tell us if it has failed so that we see what to do next. You find that you have just started making your first trip in the morning and they impound your vehicle, where do you get the K450 to have your bus released?” they asked.
The bus drivers also complained that commuters had not accepted the new bus fares, making it hard for them to meet their cashing requirements.
“They recently increased the cost of fuel and commuters have still not accepted the increase bus fares, where do we get the money? And when we pay that same K450 which they request, they don’t even issue us with receipts. Once you pay, they just hand you with the car keys and ask you to leave without any receipt. Where is that money going? Our bosses are also deducting from our salaries. How are we going to survive like this? It’s January and some of us still need to send our children to schools, we are also paying rent,” they lamented.
“We are tired of this situation. We don’t want to be finding the police on the roads that early. What time do they leave their homes? Today they impound me and I pay K450, tomorrow they do the same. We elected PF because we saw that it was the only party that could take us forward but are shocked that things are now getting worse instead of getting better. They are sharing monies on their own. They should also think for us as humans and not animals.”
They further charged that a lot of buses allegedly owned by some police officers were operating freely without being impounded whilst those owned by ordinary Zambians were targeted.
“And a lot of police officers own buses which operate without all the necessary documentations. Their buses have got no road tax but they operate freely. They don’t impound them. We wanted Mr Bowman Lusambo to come because when they impound our vehicles, they don’t tell us what offense we have committed. When they impound your bus at 06:00 hours for example, they will release it around 15:00 hours. What time can one work like that?” the drivers asked.
But in an interview, Lusambo said he would engage both the police and the drivers before making any statement.
“I haven’t received that report yet and I can only comment if I receive that report and then bring the affected stakeholders (both the police and the bus drivers) so that I can hear both sides and be able to be informed and be able to make a statement from an informed point of view. I will wait to receive a statement from police. I know that if it went to central police, definitely we will have a report from central police because the people who are supposed to give us the information are under the Lusaka Province administration,” said Lusambo.
Meanwhile, efforts to get a comment from police spokesperson Esther Katongo proved futile as her phone went unanswered by press time.