Mbabane: In the wake of the rising COVID-19 cases in the country the police seem very relaxed in executing their duties on the country’s roads.
Passengers have expressed their fear of contracting the deadly virus due to being packed like sardines in public transport, mainly kombis, by rank marshals who unhesitatingly rule that they will not follow government’s set regulations of allowing space between passengers.
Passengers who spoke to this publication from several places in the country said they were being threatened by the public transport operators, which includes but not limited to kombi conductors, drivers and rank marshals and are told to find alternative transport if they will not adhere to their command. They disregard the regulations at will and in fact, are taking advantage of the absence of the police on the public roads mainly during the peak hours, said a passenger who commutes between the major cities. Some routes that are left bare and unattended by the police are the Mbabane-Pigg’s Peak, Mbabane-Manzini but it is mostly the short distance routes which get away with violating the regulations.
“Some passengers are taciturns and will not say anything even to their peril,” said a commuter who has fallen prey to the shenanigans of kombi operators. She added that mostly kombi operators seem to take advantage of females who are quieter than their opposites. A passenger who preferred not to be named said she was personally harassed by kombi operators after she boarded a kombi servicing the Mbabane-Ngwenya route and upon taking a seat at the far end placed her bag next to her. “A rank marshal came up to me and looking at me straight in the face asked if I would pay for the bag,” said the commuter, while adding that she was berated like a school child when she tried to enquire of the COVID-19 regulation which states that there should be ample space between passengers in the kombis.
Investigations by this publication showed that during the peak hours like the knocking off time, which is the busiest for public transport, passengers are seen packed like books in kombis, all without any roadblocks in many routes especially the Ngwenya-Manzini thoroughfare.
National Police Commissioner William Dlamini said he has learnt with shock at such revelation because all he knew was that police operated on 24-hour clock shifts. The evening shift has been detailed to conduct searches on all public roads to ensure the adherence to the COVID-19 regulations. Dlamini said he would make a follow up of the matter and cracked the whip if needs be.
“Thank you for raising this matter which is so critical amidst the outbreak of the coronavirus and I will follow the matter as soon as we hang up,” said Dlamini during a telephone interview.
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