BULAWAYO – Bulawayo councillors on Wednesday hit out at the “unfair” parking system which was imposed on the city’s residents, with one warning fellow councillors that they were underestimating the depth of public anger.
Councillors called for a review of the parking charges which they said were too expensive.
“We might turn a deaf ear to residents and the public, but it won’t be right for us as policymakers,” alderman Ernest Rafomoyo of ward 20 said, speaking during a full council meeting.
“There is a huge outcry on the parking deal and as city fathers we won’t be doing our duty if we don’t fix issues being raised by residents,” added Edwin Ndlovu of ward 8.
The parking system is a partnership between the local authority and Tendy Three International (TTI), which is registered in South Africa.
Under the agreement, the City of Bulawayo gets 30 percent of revenue, while TTI retains 70 percent.
Residents associations say the contract is mired in corruption, with most councillors allegedly on the payroll of a shadowy beneficial owner of the deal who used TTI as a front.
Bulawayo businesses and residents have complained the parking charges are too exorbitant. TTI originally charged US$1 for 30 minutes and US$2 per hour, which they revised down to US$1 per hour following an outcry.
Residents pay an average US$9 for parking in the city centre between 8AM and 5PM.
A major gripe for residents is a decision by TTI to link charges to specific parking bays, such that a motorist who moves from one bay and parks in the next street – within the hour period – must pay again.
Said Rafomoyo: “My outcry is about this partnership which we did. We’re being milked our dollar by this partnership. Why is it that their technology is not being improved as soon as possible because they’re getting paid in United States dollars?
“If you’re looking for medicine at a pharmacy, and you don’t get it and you have to move to another pharmacy, you’ve to pay another dollar. Is that fair for Bulawayo? It’s not!
“They must fix their system instead of continuing to milk us. The only response we get is that they will fix this. When are they going to do it? Please let them fix this before they ask residents to pay.”
Rafomoyo wants the paid parking to be suspended until the anomaly is rectified.
He said while one of the motivations for introducing the parking system was to deal with vendors selling wares in the CBD from parked vehicles, TTI were “new vendors who are persecuting the business community.”
“We all see this, and it’s time that we respond as council. They shouldn’t try their system on us while milking us of our money. As long as residents are being milked, as a council we must distance ourselves from that until their system is perfect to the residents. They’re operating by milking residents ngobukopokopo (dishonestly).”
Bulawayo mayor Solomon Mguni, one of the active supporters of the parking deal, said TTI had been told to revise the double charging problem – but could not say when this will happen.
“There’s a lot of work that has happened behind the scenes, without pre-emptying the report that will come to council,” Mguni said. “The partner has been engaged to deal with that voucher which can cover your hour from different bays.
“From the information that I’ve received, that’s being developed and will be coming within a month or so. We tasked the management to engage on the issue.”
Ndlovu said the parking system was cruel for residents who overshoot the paid hour by a few minutes.
“If a motorist is parked for slightly more than an hour, let them not charge a dollar but allow a grace period of up to 20 or 30 minutes. It’s not fair,” Ndlovu said.
TTI, the councillor alleged, was clamping delivery vans in the city – causing friction with businesses.
“They’re clamping delivering vans to the shops which park on yellow lines. Yellow lines mean reserved parking. Maybe they’re not trained on that because shops need to take in deliveries,” Ndlovu said.
Ward 4 councillor Silas Chigora countered, defending the clamping of vehicles parking on yellow lines.
“If you deliver using the front, you must be clamped and that is correct. As councillors we must appraise ourselves with the bylaws. The yellow double lines are reserved because they have been paid for in advance, or they are there for taxis and if you park there you will be clamped. Let us know the rules and complain later,” he said.
Mguni stepped in again, telling councillors to “understand the parking deal so that we debate from an informed point of view.”
“As a city, we have gone for a very long time without having prepaid parking and it’s understandable to have these critics. We need to go to other cities in Zimbabwe who may be doing it better that us. Cities like Gweru, Kwekwe and Harare have prepaid parking but there’s no outcry,” Mguni said.
Arnold Batirai Dube, the councillor for ward 24, said the local authority should not act as though it has no input into how the parking deal is implemented.
He wants the charges further reduced – echoing demands by the Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association which says charging motorists US$1 for a day’s parking will bring more money than the present situation where parking bays in town are deserted.
“Since we’re partners, I think it’s only fair that we be part and parcel of the pricing issue. The dollar under the prevailing economic circumstances is too high. Let the council and the partner sit down and reprice,” Dube said.
Another councillor also said TTI should do its bay marking during the night, saying the company was causing congestion in town during business hours.
Tendy Three wants to manage 7,200 parking bays in the city and has made projections of between US$1.1 and US$1.8 million in annual income. It said 450 people will be employed.
The company, which claimed it would invest US$2 million, will manage the city’s parking for a six-year period before handing over to the City of Bulawayo.