Africa Moyo and BKudzaishe Muhamba
COMMUTERS continue to face transport challenges, especially in Harare, despite the injection of an additional 65 buses into the urban transport system by Zupco in the last nine days.
Zupco acting chief executive officer Mr Everisto Madangwa told The Herald that 40 buses were injected on Monday last week while 25 more were fed into the system on Tuesday.
This takes the total number of Zupco buses plying Harare routes to 445 and a similar number of Zupco-affiliated kombis.
However, commuters still face challenges to travel to and from the city centre.
The situation worsened from Monday when many people needed to travel to various pick-up points ahead of schools opening, while others needed to accompany their children to their schools.
On Monday, some bus drivers said the high demand for transport could have been occasioned by the fact that it was a public holiday and most transporters had given their staffers an off day hoping it would not be too busy.
But there were reports that Zupco-affiliated kombis had partially withdrawn their services due to non-payment of their dues on time by the company.
There were also concerns that the transport operators wanted Zupco to review their daily takings.
After schools opened on Tuesday, the demand for transport has spiked and commuters are battling to get in and out of the city.
Asked by The Herald if Zupco was facing any challenges resulting in people struggling to get transport, Mr Madangwa said: “We are not. People should go to designated pick-up points if they need transport. Zupco does not stop at Jameson (Hotel), it does not stop at Zesa, Total (Service Station along Samora Machel Avenue). Zupco does not stop along Julius Nyerere Way or at the Flyover or at ZBC (Mbare Studios); it stops at designated pick up points only.
“On Monday last week, I injected 40 buses into Harare and today (Tuesday), I injected 25 buses into Harare. When our inter-city buses return to Harare, they also ply urban routes to ensure everyone is ferried home.”
Responding to concerns by commuters that Zupco was rarely available after 5pm, Mr Madangwa said the claims were unfounded as they only “knock-off after clearing everyone”.
“We have also introduced what we call ‘sweeping buses’ that check if there are any more passengers at bus termini later in the day.
“The problem is that at 5pm, that is when everyone finishes work inclusive of those that use their own vehicles and the congestion is too much. This means that it takes long for a bus to return to town from residential areas, but we don’t desert bus termini until we clear people,” he said.
Turning to the arrears with the Zupco-affiliated kombis, Mr Madangwa said they were working to “clear the arrears” and everything would be fine soon.
Yesterday, when The Herald visited Copacabana, Market Square, Charge Office and Simon Vengayi Muzenda bus terminuses between 3pm and 6pm, many people could be seen waiting patiently for the buses.
Privately-owned buses that are affiliated to Zupco had a stronger presence compared to those owned by Zupco.
Impatient commuters moved from the designated points to file along major roads to hitch-hike, which police have always discouraged given the number of robbery and rape cases reported recently.
On Monday, Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators (GHACO) secretary general, Mr Ngonidzashe Katsvairo, said: “Most operators are now failing to service their vehicles because Zupco is refusing to review the hire fees meaning that a kombi is now working for US$20 per day when those operating mushikashika are getting over US$70 a day.”
He said the situation was exacerbated by the late payment of hire fees by Zupco.
Mr Katsvairo said commuter omnibuses hired by the Central Mechanical and Equipment Department (CMED) were being paid $30 000 a day while those at Zupco were paid $10 000 a day.
“If a vehicle that is not roadworthy is involved in an accident, it is not Zupco that is required to compensate the passengers, but the operator. So Zupco must pay adequate hire fees.
“We are happy that President Mnangagwa highlighted this issue in his May Day statement that Zupco must put its house in order,” he said.
Operators submitted a payment review request on March 22, and they said Zupco was yet to respond.
President Mnangagwa ordered Zupco to put in place an efficient transport system that will improve the ease of movement for workers and address transport challenges during peak hours.
He said concerns among the commuting public on inordinately long periods spent in bus queues had given rise to unscrupulous transporters in the form of mushikashika, which not only rip off the public, but in some cases, some passengers have been raped, robbed and even killed by the illegal operators.