On Friday 15 May 2020, Alexio Charekera woke up early with a bucket of water and soap as had been the norm before the lockdown to wash his omnibus.

He was in high spirits that at least the lockdown was now coming to an end, what a relief after several days of inactivity.

His hope was just President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s announcement away. In his mind, there was only one thing, the lifting of the national lockdown that had rendered him more like redundant.

It was on Saturday the 16th of May 2020, when Alexio got the shock his life, as news filtered through that President Mnangagwa had extended the lockdown indefinitely.

Meanwhile, it was not only the extension that worried him, but the news that commuter omnibuses remained banned.

Alexio is a tout (Hwindi), the only job he knew since finishing high school in 2002. And the news that his only source of income could be permanently abolished, send shivers down his spine.

“Life is just going to be hard for me. Before the lockdown we could be harassed by the police, but it was better.

“The total ban is just too much. A lot of people like I, are going to die,” he said.

He was referring to how touts have been pitted against law enforcement agencies because of the illegality of their act.

As if to confirm their alleged bad reputation, these touts mahwindi had been a thorn in the flesh of many commuters, they could be so rough and lack dignity to the extent of speaking profanities in public.

Meanwhile, with the country’s economic downturn, Harare registered a growth in touting which is illegal for causing public nuisance.

However, people like Alexio say they had no choice, and with the abolition of commuter omnibuses popularly known as kombis, life will never be the same again for them.

Meanwhile, Alexio’s scenario is just a tip of the iceberg, as thousands of youths share the same predicament with him.

The unprecedented unemployment have driven many into the informal sector and some engaging into touting, among other acts.

Their worries were triggered by the announcement that private run commuter omnibuses will not return to the road even after the national lockdown as part of government measures to bring sanity into the urban transport sector.

Before the lockdown, many urban areas have been battling with urban transport chaos with private operators, including small private cars especially Honda Fit causing traffic jams and disregarding traffic rules.

The private-run commuter omnibuses have been suspended since the lockdown was effected on 30 March. And hopes of having them back on the roads have been extinguished.

Local Government and Public Works Minister July Moyo told a state weekly that the ban on private commuter omnibuses would be made permanent.

He explained that the move was carried out as a way of controlling traffic in urban areas and end the age old chaos.

Urban transport will now fall under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) and those with private commuter omnibuses who are willing to continue in business will have to register and be contracted under Zupco.

“What we are doing is we want to bring sanity into the transporting sector like what we have done with the haphazard vending that was in the Central Business Districts. The President told us that this is the time for us to bring sanity to some sectors during this lockdown.

“What the kombi owners can do is register their vehicles with Zupco together with their drivers and they will be good. Actually Zupco is paying them more than what they are making right now,” said Minister Moyo.

He said with vehicles operating under Zupco it would be easier to monitor and manage them.

“We have partnered with a young gentleman from the Harare Institution of Technology who has given us an application that can help us monitor all buses and kombis under Zupco.

“The application monitors fuel efficiency and when a bus goes off route, it can automatically cut the engine off,” he said.

He added this idea was in line with the envisaged smart city. “This is honestly the direction we want to take as a Government, which is what used to occur back then, we are simply reviving an old system,” he said.

However, the move could not go unchallenged, some kombi operators have expressed their intention to fight to remain in business.

Tshova Mubaiwa chairperson, Atlas Moyo said their members have resolved not to operate under Zupco.

“As an association we opened the door to our members who wanted to join Zupco, those members that have remained have made it clear that they won’t be forced to operate under Zupco,” said Moyo.

He said if the move is made policy, the grouping was ready to fight legal battles so as to have their case heard and considered.

“We are a fully registered company and have the protection of the law. Yes, someone can say that we are barred from operating but we will fight until the end,” said Moyo.