Police moved in to quell riots that broke out in Livingstone Wednesday morning.Police rounded up 54 taxi drivers and other vendors who were protesting.
The riots which were concentrated in the city centre saw irate drivers fight running battles with armed police officers.The drivers were protesting over the recent hike in fuel pump prices by the Energy Regulation Board.
One protesting taxi driver, said fuel was very expensive and RTSA and ZRA fees had also gone up which made life unbearable.He said police officers were also making the life of taxi drivers
difficult by impounding them and hence they resolved to protest.Another taxi driver interviewed said the hiked RTSA and ZRA fees were promoting traffic police officers to be corrupt and taxi drivers could not to raise the fees which were being asked for.
He asked Government to find a way of easing the life of taxi drivers as the situation was not good for them.
“It is not fair that road taxes have gone up while ZRA fees and identify charges have also been hiked and now we have high fuel prices. We are not thieves but we are Zambians,” he said.
Mr. Ngambi, a taxi driver, explained that road tax which was at K96 was currently at K150 while the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) charges had increased to K450 from the previous K300 with the road service license standing at K470 from K313.
Mr Ngambi said despite having challenges for them to make a daily cashing with the increased fuel prices, there was also a shortage of fuel in the tourist capital.He said it was unfair for the Government to keep quiet when prices for commodities and services were being increased almost at the same time,making the cost of living unbearable for most Zambians.
He said all the taxi drivers were demanding for was an immediate reduction especially on the taxes, saying it was becoming impossible for them to reach their daily cashing target there by making it difficult to provide for their families.
He said it was unfair for the Government to keep quiet when prices for commodities and services were being increased almost at the same time
“We have families to take care of, now with these increased fuel prices and taxes, how are we going to cash in and what will our families eat? We have rentals to pay and school fees for our children to offset. So we are asking for the government to intervene and look into our plight,” Mr Ngambi said.
The taxi drivers blocked the main roads into the city centre with stones and logs and threw stones at police officers.Business came to a standstill in the Livingstone Central Business District as Police officers fought running battles with protesting taxi drivers.
Taxi drivers, who resolved not to carry passengers,closed the main Mosi-oa-tunya Road leading to Victoria Falls with stones as well as drums and logs while burning tyres, which prompted the police to use teargases to disperse them.Taxies and other pirated vehicles, which were spotted carrying passengers, were attacked and had their vehicles stoned.
The police continued patrolling the streets and removed the drums but stones and burnt tyres were still in the streets by mid-day while other motorists had to by-pass the town centre to access other parts of Livingstone for their safety.
Livingstone District Commissioner Omar Munsanje called for calm among taxi drivers as Government had heard their complaints.
“I have met representatives of the Livingstone Taxi Drivers Association and I asked them to calm their colleagues as we address their concerns.
Some shop owners and individual persons talked to said there was need for the Government to address the issue and see how best they could strike a balance with RTSA especially on taxes.
“We feel for the taxi drivers especially that most taxes have been increased by over 100 per cent, but the best thing they can do is to dialogue with RTSA and the government,” a concerned shop owner, who opted for anonymity, said.
Efforts to reach Southern Province Commissioner of Police Mary Chikwanda proved futile as she did not pick up her mobile phone.