The town centre of Petauke, where we live, is located about 6km north of the main “highway” running through the Province – the Great East Road. There are several businesses located at “the turnoff,” including a petrol station and several lodges as well as some shops, bars, houses, and churches. The turnoff is also the place to go to try to catch a lift to neighboring towns from cars and minibuses traveling on the Great East Road.
The high amount of traffic between the turnoff and the town centre is the main reason that a lot of taxis operate in Petauke. Most people don’t own cars, and so taxis run up and down the 6km for most of the day carrying people back and forth.
Except for today. Today, the taxi drivers are participating in some sort of organized protest and are not running. You see, the road traffic police know that many of the cars (including most taxis) that travel on the road are not properly licensed. Either the car or the driver or both are often missing some sort of proper paperwork (a common problem on Zambian roads). Also the car may have one of many “faults” which allow the police to charge an on-the-spot fine. (One can imagine how this sometimes leads to some suspicion of corruption on the part of the traffic police.)
At any rate, in the last few days the traffic police have broken the status quo. Instead of charging an on-the-spot fine for infractions involving taxis, they have been pressing criminal charges and requiring the taxi drivers to appear in municipal court. The taxi drivers do not like this arrangement.
So today the taxis are driving people from the town center down the road until just short of the police roadblock, then dropping off their passengers and returning to town. The passengers are left at the roadblock to try and catch a lift from one of the “legal” cars which are allowed to pass through the roadblock, or else walk the remaining 4km to the turnoff. I guess there aren’t any taxis at the turnoff for people who want to go into town.
This has caused a lot of inconvenience for many people today, including two translators who tried to come to the office by taxi.
Here’s hoping things clear up soon. Meanwhile, it’s fun to ride my bicycle right through the police checkpoint.