Beating the system!..How mushikashikas, street car wash crews circumvent TTI parking

The Chronicle

Raymond Jaravaza, Showbiz Correspondent

 ESTABLISHING a business, let alone one that operates in the streets of Bulawayo is never a walk in the park and turning it into a profitable enterprise sometimes takes months, if not years.

 Then in the blink of an eye, so to speak, one is expected to let go of that business venture with absolutely no consideration for where they will get their next meal the following day.

 That is the dilemma that confronts public transport operators and street car washing crews whose businesses have been thriving in the Bulawayo city centre.

 Known as mushikashikas, public transport operators that ply the National University of Science and Technology (Nust), the Bulawayo United Hospitals (UBH) and Selbourne Park suburb routes have been the widely used mode of transport for years.

The new parking system, introduced by Tendy Three Investments, otherwise known as TTI Parking Solutions, threatens to push them out of business, killing a source of income for vehicle owners, drivers and rank marshals.

 Where they used to park for free to pick up passengers to various destinations, they are now required to pay US$1 for an hour.

Money – Image taken from Pixabay

 The ‘mushikashikas’ rank to these routes is along 8th Avenue and corner George Silundika. It’s no longer business as usual as explained by *Aaron, a driver whose light vehicle plies the UBH route.

 Aaron does not want his real identity revealed for fear that fellow colleagues will not be amused that he entertained questions from the media.

 He and his colleagues are caught between totally circumventing the parking system or passing on the extra costs to passengers by slightly increasing their fares to make up for parking fees. Increasing fares, at least for now, is not an option.

 So how do they operate?

“We park our cars a little further from the rank, where the parking system has not been introduced and when for example six passengers going to Nust are gathered at the rank, the rank marshal calls the driver.

“The passengers now understand that they can gather around the pick-up point and the vehicle will pick them up without having to pay for an hour’s parking,” Aaron told Saturday Leisure.

 It’s a risky option but one that passengers and drivers alike are willing to take.

 The passengers, as observed by Saturday Leisure, are all too happy to quickly hop into a vehicle parked on an unmarked spot in a matter of seconds before the driver pulls away into the main road.

 It’s a different game altogether for registered metered taxi operators who are not required to pay hourly or daily parking fees.

“We have always paid parking fees way before TTI Parking Solutions came into the picture. Our taxis pay for parking space when we renew our permits and the last time I checked it cost about US$75 annually.

“So, we’re surprised when we hear people complaining about parking fees when some of us have been paying for the same service for years,” said Brian Sibindi, whose taxi operates under the Expriccos Taxis banner.

 In the long run, increasing fares that for now cost US$1 for two passengers, is inevitable, laments Aaron.

“These TTI guys are taking over the whole city centre and I don’t think the way we’re operating right now will sustain us in the long run. It’s only a matter of time before every street falls under the control of TTI and we’ll have no choice, but to pay for an hour’s parking while waiting for passengers.”

 The only solution, Aaron says, will be to pass on the extra costs to the passengers.

“It’s sad because we also feel sorry for the already struggling passengers but that will be the only way to survive in this business,” he said.

Street Car wash and Mushikashika’s outsmart TTI

 Running a business is no easy feat and street-wise individuals whose operations are threatened by the new parking system are hoping they will find ways to survive.

 Another permanent feature on the streets of Bulawayo is the street car wash ‘boys’ who are also being affected by the new parking system. They offer car washing services in the different parts of the city centre and their presence is hard to miss, seven days a week, all year round.

“For now, our corner has been marked for parking fees but the TTI employees are not yet on the ground. We expect them to start charging parking fees anytime and that’s when our business will be affected,” said one of the street car wash men who operates opposite the Chronicle building.

 He said their clients will inevitably start avoiding parking their vehicles in areas under the TTI management. 

 “I already have a few clients who now park on the outskirts of the city centre where there are no parking fees and I wash their cars there. My clients trust me so they don’t mind leaving behind their car keys so that I wash the car’s interior and exterior and they collect the keys when I’m done,” he said.

 The Bulawayo City Council entered into a partnership with TTI Parking Solutions for the parking system in February. The company started collecting fees under the first phase of the arrangement on 18 February amid resistance from motorists. According to the local authority’s monthly minutes released earlier this month, the council gets 30 percent of parking fees and 50 percent of the clamping fines. – @RaymondJaravaza

Bulawayo City Council (BCC)

Article Source: The Chronicle

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