Transporters applaud Govt . . . Long-distance buses start ferrying urban commuters today
Farirai Machivenyika and Freeman Razemba
THE Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation (ZPTO) has applauded Government for liberalising the public transport sector and allowing the importation of buses duty-free saying the move is set to ease transport challenges in the country.
ZPTO assured the nation that starting today, long distance buses will start by ferrying urban commuters to work in the morning before embarking on their usual trips.
In the evening, the same buses will also assist in ferrying people back home.
On Saturday, President Mnangagwa announced the lifting of a ban on private players in the public transport sector with operators set to benefit from a duty-free importation scheme for buses valid for a year.
He said this while addressing the nation on measures adopted by Government to restore confidence in the economy following unjustified price hikes recently.
ZPTO chairman Mr Sam Nanhanga said the development will result in more buses being imported to ease transport challenges.
“We welcome the move by the President as it will go a long way in improving the public transport system. We would also want to applaud President Mnangagwa for the duty-free importation facility which is set to run for 12 months,” Mr Nanhanga said.
He said this move was going to see more people importing buses without any hassles.
Mr Nanhanga said from today, transporters will complement Zupco by releasing more buses to ferry passengers to and from work.
“As private players, starting from tomorrow (today) we are going to release more buses countrywide to ferry people especially in urban areas to alleviate the transport problems that they are facing. We assure the nation that the buses are there and the transport situation is going to improve,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said private players will complement Zupco in ferrying passengers.
“Government is proceeding to open up the public transport system for other players in order to complement the services being provided by Zupco, in line with the reduction in Covid-19 cases and the subsequent opening up of the economy.
“To complement the above measures, Government will allow for the duty-free importation for a period of 12 months, for vehicles which meet regulations to be issued.
“The liberalisation of the public transport system shall be done under terms and conditions to be published by Government.
“The police would need to ensure that law and order is adhered to as the behaviour on our roads needs to be seriously attended to.
“Non-adherence to the rules and regulations to be gazetted will not be tolerated,” President Mnangagwa said.
Government has been working to improve availability of public transport following challenges that have been faced by the commuting public lately.
The Ministry of Finance and Economic Development last week doubled hire fees for kombis from $10 000 to $20 300 to motivate private players to join the franchise.
Negotiations for a review of hire fees for privately-owned high-volume buses are ongoing and will likely be completed this week.
Privately-owned commuter omnibuses recently withdrew from the franchise citing low hire fees and a growing payment backlog.
The development comes after ZUPCO reached an agreement with local transport operators that could help end transport challenges that have been bedevilling commuters in Harare and other major cities in the past few weeks.
Among the agreements reached, private buses plying long distances will now first ferry urban commuters to work during the morning rush hour before they travel to their normal routes.
In the evening, the same long route buses will be committed to servicing commuters during the evening peak hours.
The addition of long distance buses is a welcome respite for commuters who have been enduring long periods queuing for public transport and in desperation, have fallen prey to pirate transport operators who charge extortionate fares.
There are thousands of private buses that service long-distance routes and their addition to the Zupco fleet is expected to ease the transport challenges.