Of Combie Diaries
Combi/Kombi is how we refer to “public taxis” in Zimbabwe. They are basically minivan commuter omnibuses seating 18 passengers (not including the driver and conductor) They are a privately owned even though they are recognized as part of the public transport system which is the mode of transport for most people to get to work, school, home, shops, move between suburbs and some even travel between cities.
The name comes from the official name of the iconic “hippie van” the Volkswagen Microbus/Kombi, but has now come to refer to any minibus regardless of make and model.
The Kombi name itself came from the German word Kombinationskraftwagen meaning combination vehicles. These are vehicles such as station wagons and microbus/minivans which both carried passengers and transported cargo.
Back to the present day Zimbabwe, a combi sits 18 people, 4 packed to a seat with four rows of seats and two passengers next to driver at the front. When the kombi is fully loaded the conductor will be standing somewhere behind the front passenger leaning next to the door which is convenient since part of what he does is not only to collect the combi fare but to open and close the door for passengers to get in and out and also telling the driver the passenger’s stops.
Unlike buses which can only stop at designated bus stops, combis can pick and drop passengers almost anywhere (provided there aren’t any traffic police) When you are travelling in one you have to know where you want to drop off and destinations are normally announced either by landmarks or intersections such as The Green Gate, The Blue Roof, left turn, after you turn, after the traffic lights, the conductor notifies the driver.
Pay attention to people who sit on the front passenger’s side seat of a public taxi van, who upon reaching their destination they don’t disturb the driver, even though he is closer, they turn to the conductor and notify him of their up coming stop, those are the people who understand the natural hierarchy of why some things are the way things are..
You can tell by now this mode of transportation is not without its drama mix twenty possibly random people and pack them up all squashed together like erm…. peas in a pod and you can see how every trip is most likely to be interesting.
The cutest incident which happened to me, was when a passenger with a toddler sat next to me and she kept trying to reach out and touch my hair calling me daddy (Note it was the child not the mother, just to be clear) I guess I must’ve looked bewildered cause she explained, “…..no we’ve never met but the baby daddy has locks too.” Eventually the toddler climbed over her mum and settled on my lap and promptly fell asleep with the mum looking absolutely suitably horrified and I said its ok. When they were disembarking, as I was handing her back, the baby woke up and waved “bye bye daddy…“
I waved back…..
Day 19 Of the blog everyday challenge themed Africa: Stories from home
Photo credits Commuter Omnibus