By Melony Chisanga and Salim Dawood
FLASH Bus drivers in Lusaka yesterday staged a protest against alleged extortion by PF cadres at various bus stops on the Apex and Chilenje routes.
But PF national youth chairman Kelvin Sampa disowned the callboys in the bus stops, conceding that they were PF elements hired to tarnish the image of the ruling party.
The protests began with a convoy of about 50 flash buses arriving at Chilenje Police Station where they parked before the drivers and conductors demanded that police take action.
Flash Buses chairman Evans Mwape said drivers were parting away with K60 for every trip they made in a day.
He said the money was paid to various callboys stationed at different spots on the routes.
Mwape explained that failure or refusal to pay the callboys meant the buses would not be allowed to load passengers.
After scores of chanting drivers and conductors gathered at the police station, Sampa arrived and assured them all would be well.
Sampa boarded one of the Flash Buses and was taken around the routes where the said extortion takes place.
From Muramba Road, the long procession turned on Kasama Road and drove all the way to Apex University and then turned to Lusaka Water Works area in Libala.
During the procession, four callboy were apprehended and detained at Chilenje Police Station.
“What is happening here is that there are frictions that we were subjected to. There are these underage callboys who are being used by selfish individuals to extort money from drivers and conductors,” Mwape said. “And even causing confusion. To have these people coming together and demand money from us is very unfortunate. So today we have decided to stop work and complain because we are being harassed. We are expressing our displeasure.”
Mwape said it was shocking that after being assured by Sampa, police resorted to ‘shooting’ teargas at the bus drivers.
One bus, registration BAG 5927 Z, was damaged by police who fired teargas canisters.
He wondered the police’s motive for failing to protect lives of drivers and their passengers.
“The police officers have resorted to manhandling us now. I am just told that one of the police officers has broken the screen. It is quite shocking because police are the relevant authority that when there is a fracas like this one, we should run to. But now instead they have been harming us. It is really very unfortunate. Officers should not operate in that manner,” said Mwape.
“Is it that they are aggrieved because we have done away with callboys along these roads? What is their interest if they can now resort to shooting at us? It is very unfortunate when the assurance is being given by the honourable [Sampa].”
And Emmanuel Luyando, one of the callboys who was arrested, said he was hired to extort money from bus drivers by Kulima Tower PF chairman only identified as Eddie, who is popularly known as Waza B.
He said that every day he was paid K20 to K30 from the money he collects from bus drivers.
But Sampa said PF would not entertain any thuggery from the youths in streets.
He condemned the extorting of money from bus drivers.
The Kasama Central lawmaker said citizens should use bus stops freely and comfortably as Zambia was a free state.
He warned cadres operating on bus stops and stations that even if they were PF sympathisers, they would not be entertained.
“It is not only PF sympathisers we see in bus stations. Even opposition political parties have got their youths across the country in stations. And these are some of the things we have been discussing. Even the President [Edgar Lungu] has not welcomed this idea,” Sampa said.
He said some people were taking advantage of the PF “goodwill”.
Sampa warned thieves masquerading as PF who continue to steal from innocent and hardworking citizens that their days were numbered.
“We are aware that there are some youths that have been recruited, over hundred by the opposition political party to destabilise these bus operators. They come out in fashion like they are PF when in actual fact they are not,” said Sampa.