Manicaland private bus operators re-strategise
BUS operators in Manicaland are coming up with strategies to revive the transport sector, which has been hit hard by the national lockdown as those not registered under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (zupco) franchise are recording huge losses after halting operations.
Government recently advised private bus operators to apply to join the zupco fleet under the existing franchise arrangement, but some transporters have failed to do so. Manicaland bus operators’ chairman and coordinator for buses attached to the zupco franchise Mr Esau Mupfumi said companies in Mutare had lost more than US$100 000 since March.
He said losses could go into millions if the industry did not come up with mechanisms to stay afloat after the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid-19 has really affected the transport industry, especially those operators who ply the intercity routes,” said Mr Mupfumi. “Some buses have been parked since March because the owners could not join the franchise.
“Some felt their buses would suffer breakdowns on the local routes and preferred to wait for the resumption of long distance trips, but this might not happen soon.”
Mr Mupfumi said with old fleets, most transporters would not be able to fit into the new model being recommended by Government for the transport sector, hence the need to acquire new buses as soon as possible.
Government last month announced plans to extend the ban on privately-owned commuter omnibuses beyond the national lockdown, as part of efforts to de-congest urban centres and modernise the public transport system.
Mr Mupfumi appealed to Government to consider allocating transporters some funds under the $18 billion stimulus package set aside for the revival of the economy.
“After all this is over, we need solutions to our predicament,” he said. “Most of the operators have an old fleet and we need new buses.
“If we can access some of those funds, we will be able to import more buses. The country will definitely need more buses because social distancing will be with us for some time.”
Mr Mupfumi implored Government to increase the zupco budget so that it could take up more buses under its franchise.
Manicaland has 70 buses under zupco, but these have not been enough to ease transport challenges.