Emergency Taxis was the name once used for informal transport in Zimbabwe. Government adopted, temporarily, regulations in 1982 – 1983, which were still in use in 1993.

Origins

Informal transport started in the 1960s. There was inadequate transport, and people with cars found a way to supplement their low income and cover fuel expenses. It was very informal, people just carrying passengers with them as they went to and from their own work. The name “Pirate Taxi” was coined, and they fell into three categories:

  • People who carried passengers to and from work, but not outside their own journeys.
  • People employed full time, but who used their vehicle as a taxi service outside their normal working hours.
  • Company vehicle drivers.

Informal transport proved lucrative, and some people moved to full time “Pirate Taxi” jobs.

Post independence

The term was changed to “Auxiliary Taxi” indicating an accepting mood among lawmakers, but they were still illegal!

The Riddell Commission of Inquiry into Income, Prices and Conditions of Service (Zimbabwe, 1991) led to prices and conditions of service for informal transport being gazetted. There was now a registration system, which had a low fee but included a regular inspection for road worthiness and a legal carrying capacity. This was with effect from 15 December 1982.

In December 1983, it was revised. This new revision tried to limit operators and tried to ban any with carrying capacity over 7 passengers. Minibuses were appearing on the roads, and ZUPCO, which had an “exclusive franchise”, needed to be protected. It was noted that Harare was one of the very few cities in Africa with an “exclusive franchise”. These regulations of 1983 were still in effect in 1993, despite all claims at the time that they were temporary, for the transport “emergency”, and all were to be phased out.

Data

(Please note, this is all from a 1993 publication.) In mid 1988, a survey concluded there were 631 registered and unregistered ETs, of which 505 were in regular use in Harare. There was an organisation, Zimbabwe Emergency Taxi Association (ZETA) most belonged to. Harare probably had the highest car ownership level in Black Africa with 38 vehicles per 1000 people - twice that of Douala, Yaoundé or Nairobi. According to the survey, 99 percent thought ETs were important in meeting transport needs. 68 percent said it was satisfactory, while 32 percent said it was unsatisfactory. The biggest problems, ranked according to severity, were:

  • unroadworthyness.
  • overcrowding / overloading.
  • flat fare system (disadvantageous for short trips).
  • excessive speeding.

Conclusion

Virtually no one thought elimination of ETs was practical or desirable. The 500 to 600 vehicles in the system accounted for ¼ of all trips made on public transport in Harare. Over half were owner drivers, and there was no evidence of any large vehicle fleets. There were few with more than two vehicles.

[1]

  1. [Lovemore Zinyama, Daniel Tevera, Sioux Cumming (Eds), Harare; The Growth and Problems of the City], Harare; The Growth and Problems of the City, (University of Zimbabwe, Harare, 1993), Retrieved: 18 May 2020