MIHR condemns mandatory registration of school buses under ZUPCO

The Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) has condemned the new public transport arrangements in Bulawayo which have seen police ordering companies and organisations to register their staff buses and vehicles ferrying school children and staffers under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), as a violation of the children’s rights.

Under the government’s Covid-19 control measures, ZUPCO is the only authorised public transporter.

In an open letter to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, MIHR Coordinator, Khumbulani Maphosa, said the new transport directives being enforced were unjustifiably violating children’s rights as ZUPCO cannot meet the demand.

“Matabeleland Institute for Human Rights (MIHR) would like to respectfully bring to the attention of the above-mentioned Honourable Government Ministers that the current public transport policy directives being enforced are unjustifiably violating children’s rights. It is clear that ZUPCO as sole public transporter has no capacity to efficiently cater for citizens’ public transport needs,” said Maphosa.

He said the impounding privately owned Kombis hired to ferry learners to school was unfair.

Maphosa added that ZUPCO failed to have a child-sensitive transport arrangement.

“Therefore, the current action of impounding privately owned kombis hired to ferry children to school and educational tours is unfair in the following ways:  children are missing classes, losing lesson time, and exposed to abuse due to the ZUPCO arrangement,” he said.

MIHR said under the previous arrangement, there were no ZUPCO vehicles specifically allocated to school children, adding those who provided services to learners and even if did not drop and collect them as is done by kombis.

Maphosa added that ZUPCO crews are not vetted in child safeguarding issues, whilst some private operators have been vetted by parents’ bodies and found competent to protect children’s rights.

 “The current situation where children find themselves learning further from their homes is partly a fatal consequence of the Lazarus Dokora enrolment policy which citizens tried to challenge but were ignored. Now those Dokora directives are haunting children.”

He further said:  “The current Dokora curriculum is experiential learning and therefore students are demanded to conduct learning trips. Some schools do not have school buses and therefore are forced to hire the kombis and this wanton impounding of kombis is disenfranchising the children. There are some routes that are not serviced by ZUPCO buses and kombis and therefore these private kombis are the only salvation for the school children and the citizens at large.”

Maphosa said there was a need to review the current public transport regulations as there is no evidence that children are exposed to Covid-19 in private Kombis.

 “Allow the school children ferrying private kombis (even though not registered under ZUPCO) to operate, so that children safely realize their rights to education. In doing so, you may consider evoking the principle of devolution and decentralization of governmental powers and functions espoused in Section 3(2) (j) of the Constitution and allow City level mechanisms of giving free permits to these school run kombis. There is no empirical evidence that children are exposed to Covid19 in private kombis and not in ZUPCO buses and kombis and therefore may the principles in Section 194(1)(c) and 196(1)(b) and (3(d) of the Constitution be evoked,” said Maphosa. 

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