The Harare Central Business district (CBD) ranks which accommodates public transport vehicles have been marred by overcrowding, with people queuing for long hours as they wait for ZUPCO transportation which are few and seem not able to cope with the high demand for public transport services, situation that is so bad that commuters fail to arrive at their destinations on time.
Commuters have complained endlessly about the poor service delivery by ZUPCO bus operators which most of the buses are in poor condition, which puts the lives of the public at risk. This is above the usual problems like fuel shortages which also affect the sector, hence there is need for a long lasting solution and efficient service delivery.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently commissioned a new batch of 50 ZUPCO buses at the company’s headquarters in Harare.
The President indicated that the initiative is part of the government’s plans to ensure better service delivery. He said that it is also meant to lessen the long lines at bus termini as well as to modernize the public transport sector .
The President ordered the police to continue manning security checkpoints to ensure that only designated operators under the ZUPCO umbrella continue to be the sole providers of public transportation adding that there should be stiffer penalties for pirate operators.
“Private transport operators had abused government empowerment initiatives extended to them over the years through charging exorbitant fares and failure to provide good customer service.” The President said.
There is hope that transport system will improve as number of public utility new fleet rose to 212.
The President reiterated that private players give poor service, unsafe travel and unsustainable fare hikes.
“Over the years our transport sector has been opened to private players as an empowerment initiative .This has, however, presented pertinent and unique challenges .Our commuting public have often been subjected to poor services unsafe travel and unsustainable fare structures.” He said.
Mnangagwa urged the public transport sector to give due regard to safety, orderliness and good customer care within the sector .
The ZUPCO initiative is part of the government’s drive to modernize the public transport sector. This has seen the President striking a deal with Belarus for the provision of buses, and the authorities expect the move to bring efficiency in the public transport sector as well as low and stable prices.
According to the Zimbabwean government, Belarus offered to help the Southern African nation develop into a regional transport hub using its own experiences. The Eastern European nation reportedly promised 500 buses to Zimbabwe with the possibility of increasing the number in future.
While the move by government to increase the number of ZUPCO buses is a welcome move, there is still need to work with independent private operators as the ZUPCO buses on the ground are not yet able to meet the demand. The government should be able to find a way to accommodate private operators whose vehicles are in good condition and put measures in place to ensure that they comply with road regulations.
One of the major problems facing Bus operators under the ZUPCO umbrella is that of fuel. Most buses are grounded as they spend much of their time in fuel queues, which situation then militates against the government’s drive to improve service delivery. Some operators have questioned the logic behind commissioning more buses while the current fleet is not fully operational due to incessant fuel shortages .
“Fuel shortages need to be addressed for efficient service delivery.” A Zupco driver who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Another ZUPCO driver cited pressure at fuel service station as a major concern.
He however added that commuters are following Covid – 19 guidelines of maintaining social distancing, proper wearing of face mask and hand sanitization.
More so, Ponesayi Mapiye a ZUPCO commuter disputed manning of private transport as detrimental saying other private cars are operating despite police security. He however encouraged a joint operation of private sector and ZUPCO as a way of reducing overcrowding at Zupco ranks.
President Mnangagwa is improving the public transport sector by pouring more ZUPCO buses in the system. The President banned private operators and encouraged them to join ZUPCO if they want to operate without hindrance. There is need to address the public transport sector so as to have a positive outcome on service delivery. The provision of buses in the transport sector by the government will see the southern African country improve on its transport sector.