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Urban commuters lament transport crisis

by Staff reporter
06 Nov 2021 at 17:57hrs | Views
IT was just another day at the bus station. Passengers were waiting in queue at a terminus adjacent Harare Police Station charge office, enduring hours before the next bus came by.

The sweltering heat is good for vendors eking out a living by selling cool drinks to commuters patiently waiting to board public buses.

Momentarily, a few passengers jump out of the bus and those queuing take chances to board a ramshackle vehicle that has become part of their daily lives.

 With unconfirmed reports indicating that nearly half of the buses currently being contracted by the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco), public safety may be at risk as the government maintains its stronghold on the sector.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the authorities in Harare barred operators not registered with Zupco from plying their routes, citing public health concerns. Ironically, observations and reports show that the bulk of those registered are not only violating Covid-19 regulations by exceeding their carrying capacity but are also unroadworthy.

Zupco contracted companies such as CAG, Inter Africa, Bless it UP Tours and some privately owned commuter omnibuses for their services, after it emerged that its fleet had been overwhelmed following the ban.

On numerous occasions, passengers have witnessed Zupco buses breaking down on their way to or from work and have complained about the long hours spent travelling from central Harare to Chitungwiza or any other route and the time taken waiting for another bus to arrive when a certain bus breaks down and this is caused by the poor road performance by the Zupc buses.

Some have been involved in road traffic accidents.

Tafadzwa Goliath, Passenger Association of Zimbabwe president, said Zupco's monopoly is not good for service delivery. "We have consistently opposed the government monopoly. Government wants to centralise transport system like they did using statutory instruments 83 of 2020 and 200 of 2020. A huge amount of citizens' monthly salaries goes to transport and this system should be efficient,'' Goliath said.

 As the public transport crisis continues, Zimbabwe Republic Police and municipal police continue to have running battles with pirate operators. Windshields have been smashed and tyres have been deflated as law enforcement agents make frantic efforts to ensure that a ban on unregistered transport operators is complied with.

 Sadly, the public risks being run over during such a blitz.

ZRP spokesperson Paul Nyatho said officers manning checkpoints are ensuring that only roadworthy operators are operating.

 "We always ensure that Zupco company gets serviced and worthy buses to be on the road, if not we as usually impound the buses. We urge commuters to report to any nearest police station if they happen to see these kinds of Zipco buses on the road which are unroadworthy," Nyathi said.

In September 50 new Golden Dragon buses from China were imported as the authorities sought to mitigate the transport blues. Evaristo Madangwa, Zupco chief executive, however said transporters operating under the banner of his organisation are roadworthy.

 "Zupco buses are certified fit by the VID (Vehicle Inspectorate Department) before they go on the road. We have heard some issues of buses which are now transporting the public as Zupcos while they are not under Zupco company and we are carrying out investigations."

 Speaking to the The NewsHawks at the charge office terminus, a man who identified himself as Mhofu from Chitungwiza said: "Zupco company has made life a little bit easy to get to and fro work, but it's the time we spend in queues and the inefficiency of the operators, which leaves a lot to be desired. With schools open, demand for public transport remains high and this means waking up very early in the morning ."

Source - thenewshawks
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