Long-distance bus operators cry foul over ZUPCO monopoly

Long-distance bus operators have condemned the continued ban on inter-city travel under the Covid-19 induced national lockdown saying the move is giving an unfair advantage to the government-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday extended the lockdown by a further two weeks with intercity and inter-provincial travel banned. 

In an interview with CITE, operators who spoke on condition of anonymity questioned why they were banned from operating while ZUPCO buses continued to ply intercity routes.  

“Our buses have been stopped from operating as they are saying no intercity but ZUPCO is still operating in Plumtree, Kezi, Maphisa, Nathisa, Gwanda, Manama. We are told we cannot operate because of Covid-19 but ZUPCO buses are operating, isn’t that selective application of the law,” said one operator.

“All privately-owned companies operating in Bulawayo none of them are operating in rural areas or plying the intercity routes, that’s what surprises us, we want to understand why it seems like there is selective application of the law, we are not even sure whether this is a government ploy to give ZUPCO the monopoly.” 

Another operator claimed that ZUPCO buses plying rural routes were overcharging travellers.

“The other thing with these ZUPCO buses, you find that when they are going to Manama, they don’t charge straight fare like Manama- Bulawayo, but they charge fairs for Manama-Gwanda, Gwanda-Bhalabhala and then Bhalabhala-Bulawayo. When someone is going for example to Cape town you pay for the full fare here once but they don’t do that system,” he said. 

“These days they are even charging in foreign currency, so I am told from Gwanda- Manama they charge R50, all in all for that route the amount reaches R150. They no longer deal in bonds even in the City they are now charging in foreign currency.” 

The operator also claimed that they have not received payments for their buses that are plying urban routes under the ZUPCO franchise for the past two months. 

“The other thing, they are taking our buses, they are the ones which operate locally in Bulawayo, they charge in foreign currency but we are being paid in RTGS which is electronic money which we cannot access, as we speak its well over two months and going to three months we have not yet been paid,” said the source. 

Contacted for a comment, ZUPCO Southern Region Manager Tinaye Rwasoka said he was in a training session while ZUPCO acting chief executive officer, Evaristo Madangwa’s phone rang unanswered. 

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