On Thursday November 12, the much-awaited rains fell in Harare, raising hopes of a good farming season.
Urban farmers began planting on roadsides and open spaces to capitalise on the early rains.
While the rains brought relief, commuters who use public transport shrugged as the wet season means drenched clothes each day after work.
Their fears stem from the fact that all of Harare’s Central Business District’s (CBD) sheds at bus terminuses have gone unrepaired. This leaves commuters waiting for transport exposed to heavy rains.
The Herald visited several bus ranks in the CBD.
Bus terminuses in Harare’s CBD are situated at Charge Office, Market Square, Simon Muzenda Street and Copacabana.
Long winding queues of people with weary faces welcomed me as I neared Market Square bus terminus on Wednesday afternoon.
As they patiently waited for the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (ZUPCO) buses to ferry them home, a thick dark cloud formed signalling a downpour.
One of the commuters, a young man, who had been waiting for a bus for three hours battled with sweat on his face, his eyes constantly monitoring the cloud that continued to thicken.
Others sat on the pavement waiting for the buses, and at the same time praying the rains did not fall before their departure.
If the rains fall, they have nowhere to hide.
The bus terminus sheds are dilapidated and can only accommodate a small number of passengers in the queue.
On the other side of Market Square, hundreds of commuters are seen crowded under a dilapidated, disfigured and shattered terminus shed as they try to cover themselves from the rains which have just started falling.
Their prayer to have the rains fall when they have boarded buses have not been answered. They have to endure the rains.
This aptly characterises all the bus terminuses around town.
A passenger, David Sigauke, said Harare city was violating the rights of citizens by failing to repair sheds and construct more shelters.
“The city council does not care for our well-being and our health. They do not have us in mind. We have lost all the hope we had in the council all these years as it is failing to build good and big bus terminus sheds for us passengers. Every day we are stranded here as to where to sit or stand as they are no sheds for us to use,” he said.
Sigauke said sometimes they spend four hours waiting for the bus under the scorching sun.
“We can brace through this hot sun but when the rains come we cannot. There is nowhere you can go to hide and are always soaked by the rains. We don’t know what will happen when the rains come,” he narrated.
Another passenger from Chitungwiza, Rudo Marimire who boards buses at Charge office terminus said: “You wonder where the council put the revenue it collected over the years from the same facilities before ZUPCO buses came to operate here. There is no development taking place in the whole town.”
She added that by now, council should have built good and big sheds for the passengers and even provide a bigger space for the buses.
Marimire reiterated that council must spare some money for reconstructing new terminus sheds.
“If they repair the old ones they cannot accommodate all the people waiting for buses,” she said.
Other passengers highlighted that the Harare City Council should ask for help from the government and the corporate world if they cannot construct the sheds before heavy rains come.
“If the council does not have revenue to renovate the shelters why don’t they ask for assistance from the government or the corporate world to assist them? Some companies will be willing to help them and in exchange they put companies’ banners for free advertising,” said Boss Mafa, a driver.
The President and spokesperson of the Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors, Mr Fredrick Maguramhinga, said they are not happy with the current situation at the terminuses as sheds are dilapidated.
“We are not happy with the state of our bus terminus sheds. The council just painted the bus terminus shelters. This does not mean that the shelter can accommodate all the passengers or that they will not get drenched in water. Those structures were built long ago when our population was still below 10 million so there is need to change that infrastructure and copy with the current population and standards,” said Maguramhinga.
He said both public and private players in conjunction with the government should come together and build good shelter for the passengers.
“There are other partners who are willing to give hand to this issue,” he said
Over the years, residents have been calling for the renovation of terminuses, but council seems to have ignored and nothing has happened.
The City of Harare had not responded to questions by time of going to print.
But, last year, the Council promised to renovate the terminus, yet up to now nothing has materialised.
The passengers have many unanswered questions as to why the city fathers have failed to build the bus terminus sheds for this long, and why they have not fulfilled last year’s promise of renovating them.
Recently, a private player, Zimbabwe Passengers Transport Organisation, an association of bus operators, had to chip in to help renovate Mbare Musika bus terminus.
The association is renovating the terminus in line with the Covid-19 regulations. So far they funded the drilling of two boreholes, washing basins at the entrance and inside the complex. They will also put up terminus sheds and toilets.
The government has asked them to do the same to all the bus terminuses around the country.