The minibus culture

Preying on young women, particularly schoolgirls using minibuses as public transport, has become commonplace among some minibus drivers and conductors.  On the whole, the emergence of the minibus as the primary form of public transport has brought with it various dangerous and abhorrent downsides, not least, reckless driving that frequently results in multi-fatality accidents, various forms of passenger abuse, and enclaves of sexual adventurism, frequently between school-age girls and minibus crews.

There are instances too, in which traffic ranks, whose role ought to extend to reining in these excesses, partner with offenders in corrupt transactions that offer them immunity from sanction for traffic-related offences in exchange for bribes.

There has been some measure of both official discourse and public comment on the downside of the minibus culture. There has, however, been no indication of any really serious effort to tackle some of the more disturbing aspects of the problem. You get the impression that deviant behaviour is pretty much an ingrained aspect of the culture and that the authorities are either unable or altogether unwilling to respond, the gravity of some of the consequences notwithstanding.

The argument has been made that minibuses are a kind of lesser of two evils, the greater one being that to interfere with this form of public transport is to impact negatively, and significantly so, on public life. That argument is, of course, a nonsense.  Minibus owners, drivers, conductors and their families depend on public patronage for their respective livelihoods and we believe that the vast majority of those would not wish to see those livelihoods threatened. That circumstance represents considerable leverage which the authorities can apply. The simple fact is that there is nothing – save and except official indifference ‒ that can excuse the dichotomy between the negative impact which the minibus culture has inflicted on society and the overwhelming feebleness of the official response. Much worse, is the existence of irrefutable evidence that, in some respects, inept and corruption-driven policing is making its own contribution to the perpetuation of the culture.

As an aside, one wonders whether there is not good reason to investigate reports that a number of minibuses are owned by policemen and women, and if this is in fact the case, seriously consider outlawing the practice on the grounds of conflict of interest.

With regard to minibus crews and under-age schoolgirls there is, surely, a case at this juncture, for the immediate extension of police responsibility beyond ensuring compliance with the traffic laws. Shouldn’t our traffic cops also be assigned broader oversight that allows for the periodic stopping and inspection of minibuses, particularly those that transport after-lessons students, to seek out signs of irregular behaviour and illicit intentions? Shouldn’t seeming evidence of those irregularities be queried and even followed up with parents and schools if the need for so doing is believed to exist?

If we can already hear the argument about the police having enough on their plate we believe that it is more than worth the while for them to extend themselves just a bit further if the outcome is going to be the rolling back of the negatives associated with minibuses.

More can be done, too, to recruit the support of parents, some of whom appear less than mindful of the after-school pursuits of their children, which is precisely the time the deviants preoccupied with preying on unsuspecting minors are in their element.

Over time, we have endured the seamier side of the minibus culture, our position underpinned mostly by the argument about the compulsoriness of the service. What is sometimes apparent is that the excesses of the culture are driven by an awareness on the part of the perpetrators that they have established a fortress-like power base which cannot be pushed back either by public protest or by the robust application of the law. We have an obligation to disabuse them of that notion.