Ivan Zhakata Herald Correspondent
Public transport improved significantly yesterday as private companies and kombis restored their services following discussions with Zupco on franchise hire payments and arrangements to use intercity buses in morning and evening peak hours.
Bus companies made a decision to switch more of their fleets into urban transport yesterday after clearing the air with the Government and Zupco.
More buses and kombis were moving into the five Harare city centre terminuses at Simon Vengayi Muzenda Street, Charge Office, Copacabana, Market Square and Julia Zvobgo Street.
The Zupco fleet is largely made up of franchised buses and kombis but many owners were pulling out citing hire charges that were too low, coupled with delayed payments.
Hire fees for kombis have been doubled to $20 300 from $10 000 as part of efforts to ensure viability and also to motivate private players to join the Zupco franchise.
The Government sliced through the knot late last week with the kombi deal and a bus charge deal to be finalised this week, although bus owners appear to be sufficiently confident of a viable fee that they are returning to service.
At the same time, intercity buses are now expected to operate early morning and early evening peak services before and after their intercity runs.
For longer-term solutions, President Mnangagwa announced on Saturday evening that the Government will allow private bus owners to import vehicles duty-free for a year, which will help to increase the available fleet, and would be gazetting regulations that will govern and formalise private sector participation in public transport.
Commuters have applauded the Government’s decisions that will help in easing the transport woes they were facing during peak hours.
Ms Tinotenda Magwande said people were resorting to pirate taxis commonly known mushikashika, causing chaos in town.
“At least we will not be facing any more transport problems, especially during peak hours when we will be rushing home to prepare supper for our families and prepare for the next day.
“Now people should desist from going to mushikashika and use the buses and kombis at the ranks so that there won’t be chaos in town,” she said.
Ms Brenda Mutisi said the buses will aid in reducing long queues they were experiencing at terminuses.
“The more buses we are going to have the shorter the queues we are going to experience and it will become more convenient for us. We are grateful to the Government.”
Mr Phillip Banda echoed the same sentiments and urged commuters to desist from boarding mushikashika and unregistered vehicles when there will be more buses and kombis at terminuses.
“I think what now needs to happen is for us to stop boarding mushikashika and develop a spirit of going to ranks as there will be enough buses for everyone’s convenience. If we can do that we can reduce chaos in the city centre especially during peak hours,” he said.
Zimbabwe Passenger Transporters Organisation (ZPTO) chairman Dr Sam Nanhanga has assured commuters that transport shortages will continue easing as his members start importing more buses.
Transporters said they will complement Zupco by releasing more buses to ferry passengers to and from work.
“We welcome the move by the President as it will go a long way in improving the public transport system. We would also like to applaud President Mnangagwa for the duty-free importation facility which is set to return for 12 months.
“As private players, starting from tomorrow (yesterday) 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 buses are there and the transport situation is going to improve,” he said.
On Saturday, President Mnangagwa said the Government was opening up the public transport system to other players so as to complement the services provided by Zupco, given the decline in new Covid-19 infections.
The development has excited many private transport operators, in a development expected to increase the availability of transport for commuters.
The liberalisation of the public transport system will be done under terms and conditions to be published by the Government.
Non-adherence to the rules and regulations to be gazetted will not be tolerated, said President Mnangagwa.