Michael Chideme Municipal Reporter
FIVE firms — Pioneer Motors, an Indian company Ashok Leyland, a consortium of banks and two other unnamed companies —have submitted offers to introduce a mass bus transport system in Harare.
Mayor Muchadeyi Masunda confirmed the city was seized with the firms’ offers.
Sources at Zupco indicated that the board had turned down two offers, one with 500 buses and another with 1 500 buses, to partner it in the mass transport system.
When the companies were turned down, they then approached council, which showed interest in the deal.
The first company wanted to bring in 500 buses and strike a shareholding deal with Zupco while the Indian firm wanted a similar arrangement.
Mr Masunda said council was dealing with the two companies’ offers.
“There are two firm offers on the table so far.
The expressions of interest from the other consortia are probably in the pipeline and should be welcomed,” he said.
He said the city was looking for long-term solutions that addressed woes “bedevilling the urban commuters”.
Council has already indicated that it wants commuter omnibuses outlawed because they are a traffic menace and have failed to address the city’s transport needs.
Zupco board chairperson Dr Chipo Dyanda last Friday dismissed reports that her board turned down offers by two companies that wanted to partner it.
She said no one had approached the company with any proposal for a partnership.
“No one has really approached us. We have never discussed such issues. Such issues have never been considered by the board. Government has also not come out in the open to say they want a partner for Zupco. It all hinges on the shareholder,” she said.
She said her board remained open to proposals, but hinted that soliciting for partners was the responsibility of the shareholder.
“If anything involves shareholding, it becomes Government business,” she said.
She said her board could not discuss such matters without the permission of the Government, adding that Zupco was not on the list of Government-owned companies the State was seeking partners for.
She said the provision of a mass bus transport system remained the responsibility of Zupco.
The company operates a fleet of 100 buses and expects another 100 buses this year.
“We cannot shake off that responsibility. Our problem at the moment is lack of capacity,” she said.
She said once the company had 200 buses, it could consider going into the mass bus transport business beginning with Harare.
Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister Ignatius Chombo, under whose purview Zupco falls, said Government would only consider good and serious proposals.
He said Pioneer approached the Government but only wanted to use Zupco’s depots, a deal that Government turned down.
“They wanted to come for the depots and not to partner with Zupco,” he said.
He said a Chinese company also made similar proposals, which were not considered.
At least 500 conventional buses are required to service Harare and its satellite towns of Chitungwiza, Ruwa and Epworth.
The city has already guaranteed to protect routes to be serviced by a mass bus transport system through denying other users permits to ensure the investor gets a return on the investment.
Mass transit refers to public transportation systems designed to move large numbers of passengers.