Africa Moyo and BKudzaishe Muhamba
TRANSPORTERS continue to face transport challenges, particularly in Harare, despite the injection of 65 additional buses into the urban transport system by Zupco over the past nine days.
Zupco’s acting chief executive, Mr Everisto Madangwa, told the Herald that 40 buses were injected on Monday last week while another 25 were fed into the system on Tuesday.
This brings the total number of Zupco buses plying Harare’s roads to 445 and a similar number of Zupco-affiliated kombis.
However, commuters still struggle to get to and from the city center.
The situation worsened from Monday when many people had to go to various collection points before schools opened, while others had to accompany their children to their schools.
On Monday, some bus drivers said the high demand for transport could have been caused by the fact that it was a public holiday and that most transporters had given their employees the day off in the hope that he wouldn’t be too busy.
But there have been reports that Zupco-affiliated kombis have partially withdrawn their services due to the company not paying their dues on time.
There were also fears that transport operators would ask Zupco to review their daily receipts.
After schools opened on Tuesday, transport demand has increased and commuters are scrambling to get in and out of the city.
Asked by The Herald if Zupco faced any challenges causing people to have difficulty getting transport, Mr Madangwa said: ‘We are not. People should go to designated pick-up points if they need transportation. Zupco does not stop at Jameson (Hotel), it does not stop at Zesa, Total (Service Station along Samora Machel Avenue). Zupco doesn’t stop along Julius Nyerere Way or at the Flyover or ZBC (Mbare Studios); it only stops at designated pick-up points.
“Monday of last week I injected 40 buses in Harare and today (Tuesday) I injected 25 buses in Harare. When our intercity buses return to Harare, they also use urban routes to ensure everyone is brought home.
Responding to commuters’ concerns that Zupco was rarely available after 5 p.m., Mr Madangwa said the claims were unfounded as they “just crumble after clearing everyone”.
“We have also introduced what we call ‘scan buses’ which check for more passengers at bus terminals later in the day.
“The problem is that at 5 p.m., which is when everyone finishes their work, including those who use their own vehicles, and the congestion is too great. That means it takes a long time for a bus to come back to town from residential areas, but we don’t desert bus stations until we evacuate people,” he said.
Regarding the arrears with Zupco-affiliated kombis, Mr Madangwa said they were working to “clear up the arrears” and all would be well soon.
When The Herald visited the Copacabana, Market Square, Charge Office and Simon Vengayi Muzenda bus terminals between 3 and 6 p.m. yesterday, many people could be seen waiting patiently for the buses.
Private buses affiliated with Zupco were more prevalent than those owned by Zupco.
Eager commuters moved from designated points to dash along main roads to hitchhike, something police have always discouraged given the number of recent reports of robbery and rape.
On Monday, the General Secretary of the Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators (GHACO), Mr Ngonidzashe Katsvairo, said: “Most operators are failing to maintain their vehicles as Zupco refuses to review rental charges, which means that a kombi now works for US$20 a day when those who operate the mushikashika earn over $70 a day.
He said the situation was exacerbated by late payment of rental fees by Zupco.
Mr Katsvairo said commuter omnibuses hired by the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) were paid $30,000 per day while those from Zupco were paid $10,000 per day.
“If a vehicle that is not roadworthy is involved in an accident, it is not Zupco who is obliged to compensate the passengers, but the operator. Zupco must therefore pay an adequate rental fee.
“We are pleased that President Mnangagwa highlighted this issue in his May Day statement that Zupco needs to put its house in order,” he said.
The operators submitted a payment review request on March 22, and they said Zupco had yet to respond.
President Mnangagwa has ordered Zupco to put in place an efficient transportation system that will improve ease of movement for workers and solve transportation problems during peak hours.
He said commuters’ concerns over long periods in bus queues have given rise to unscrupulous carriers in the form of mushikashika, who not only rip off the public, but in some cases have some passengers been raped, robbed and even killed. by illegal operators.