By Albert Nxumalo
Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) buses are allegedly not roadworthy hence exposing travellers to several hazards amid accusations that the company ‘badge puts an inspection immunity by the Vehicle Inspection Department’.
All public transport operators are legally required to have fitness certificates after undergoing rigorous tests by VID.
The concerns come amid growing worry that a clandestine Zupco monopoly is being created in the public transport sector as a ban on private commuter omnibuses during the COVID-19 induced lockdown continues.
Under the national lockdown measures, only Zupco buses and privately-owned commuter omnibuses contracted under its franchise are allowed to operate.
However, Zupco has been failing to cope with the huge demand following the relaxation of the lockdown regulations which saw more companies resuming operations.
The transport crisis has left most commuters stranded.
Announcing the lockdown further extension on Saturday, President Emmerson Mnangagwa reiterated that only Zupco buses are allowed on the roads.
“Inter and intra provincial and district movement remains controlled. Commuter omnibuses/kombis, unregistered taxies (mushikashika) also remain banned.
“Only Zupco buses and Zupco contracted commuter omnibuses with the stipulated number of passengers, and adhering to the sanitisation and disinfection regulations will be permitted to operate”.
In a statement, opposition MDC Alliance National Secretary for Transport and Logistics Settlement Chikwinya claimed that a Zupco monopoly is being enforced.
“Mnangagwa has effectively banned private actors in providing public transportation services through the ban of kombis,” said Chikwinya.
“The move is not only creating a monopoly for Zupco but will create challenges for commuters”.
The move has drawn condemnation from several human rights lobby groups saying coercing private operators to join ZUPCO is an unfair practice.
According to Chikwinya, “many transporters are against partnering Zupco providing it with their vehicles due to poor maintenance of vehicles in the scheme”.
The legislator claimed that most Zupco buses are not roadworthy exposing travellers to several hazards.
“That itself is also a danger to commuters who are transported in unroadworthy vehicles, the Zupco badge puts an inspection immunity by VID therefore taking away the available remedy”.
“The government ought to allow private actors to participate in provision of public transport under regulations meant to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus”.
Zupco has been inviting interested kombi owners to register under its franchise.
The company is currently operating with 507 conventional buses and 500 commuter omnibuses and is looking for an additional 500 kombis.
This comes as authorities were intensifying efforts to import new buses for inner and inter-city travel.
Members of the public have long called on Government to lift the ban on private commuter omnibuses.
Bulawayo has three taxi associations namely Tshova Mubaiwa Transport Corporation, Bulawayo Public Transport Association (BUPTA) and Bulawayo City Transit (BCT).
Recently, CITE reported that Tshova Mubaiwa Transport Corporation indicated through its chairperson Atlas Moyo that is it not willing to joining the Zupco franchise as they do not want to destroy their company.
On the other hand, Director of Bulawayo Public Transport Association (BPTA), Morgan Msipa hinted that the association is waiting to be approached officially by Zupco.