Bulawayo resident associations have condemned a government directive allowing Zupco buses to carry more passengers arguing that the move will expose the commuting public to the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Zupco buses were previously allowed to carry 32 passengers while commuter omnibuses operating under the franchise were allowed to carry 8 passengers as part of social distancing protocols.
Private transport operators which were the backbone of the public transport sector, remain banned, with the government urging those who want to resume operations to join the Zupco franchise.
This resulted in an outcry from the commuting public who are spending hours in bus queues with Zupco struggling to meet the demand.
In response, cabinet this week gave Zupco the green light to carry more passengers under new Government health guidelines to ease public transport challenges.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) communications officer, Kelebone Khabo, in an interview with CITE said it will be difficult to observe social distancing.
“There won’t be any social distancing in these buses thus exposing people to coronavirus. This will pose as a threat to our fight against the pandemic,” Khabo said.
“The government should bring back kombi operators into the system because they were really efficient in easing the pressure on commuting residents. Clearly here in Bulawayo ZUPCO is failing to meet the current demand hence the reason they opted to carry at full capacity.”
Khabo said there is a need to consider that we are now in the winter season and most people are likely to catch colds and flu.
“People are not being regularly tested and having to pack them in a bus where there is no observation of Covid-19 is not ideal,” said Khabo.
Bulawayo Residents Association (BURA) chairperson Winos Dube said they were puzzled by the government directive at a time when COVID-19 cases were on the increase in the country.
“We are however puzzled by this directive by the government. Figures are currently alarmingly increasing and having such instructions from the government is quite worrying,” noted Dube.
“We were expecting stricter measures because clearly, we are not in a position to carry that many passengers on a bus. Although we are aware that residents are struggling to move from one point to another, we are very skeptical of having that many people being packed in one place.”