HARARE – The Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) has given the government and ZUPCO a 24-hour deadline to provide adequate public transport in urban areas or face being dragged to court.
The police’s ongoing crackdown on pirate taxis has exacerbated the transportation problems, as the limited number of state-owned ZUPCO buses and commuter omnibuses cannot cater for the huge demand for transport.
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, on behalf of PAZ, said in a statement Thursday: “We have given ZUPCO and the ministry of local government 24 hours to provide an adequate fleet of buses and commuter omnibuses for public transportation and ease the challenges that passengers and commuters are currently facing.
“We told ZUPCO and the ministry of local government that failure to comply with the request will leave us with no option but to institute legal proceedings to compel them to do so as this failure to provide and supply adequate buses and commuter omnibuses amounts to a violation of commuters and passengers’ right to freedom of movement as provided in Section 66(2) of the Constitution.
“We also stated that ZUPCO’s failure to provide public transportation service despite being given a monopoly amounts to inefficient and unreasonable administrative conduct which is a breach of commuters’ right to administrative justice guaranteed under Section 68(1) of the Constitution.”
The government’s March 2020 ban on private taxis, which made state-owned ZUPCO the only approved public transport provider, has spawned a major transport crisis.
Some of the banned minibuses have persisted in operation despite the police crackdown, engaging in a cat-and-mouse game and charging exorbitant fares to cover the risk.
ZUPCO’s monopoly has been challenged in court.
In February, the Supreme Court reserved judgement after hearing arguments from human rights lawyers who argued that the monopoly limits the right of commuters to board transport of their choice, limits the right of transport owners to earn a living, creates massive shortages and prejudices commuters because ZUPCO has no capacity to trade.
The government appears short on ideas of how to resolve the transport crisis. A cabinet meeting on Tuesday said inter-city ZUPCO buses would be drafted in to ply local routes after completing their trips, but few see this as a credible solution.
The main opposition Citizens Coalition for Change said a solution to the crisis should begin with unbanning privately-owned minibuses from carrying passengers and ending ZUPCO’s monopoly.