Nkulumane 12 residents in Bulawayo intending to get into town were on Monday stranded as there were very few Zimbabwe Passenger Company (ZUPCO) buses ferrying people into the Central Business District (CBD) on the first day of the 21-day lock down to contain the spread of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19).
In declaring a total shutdown of the country, President Emmerson Mnangagwa last Friday said public transport operations would be suspended with only ZUPCO and Public Service Commission buses allowed to ferry passengers into the city.
“Only ZUPCO and Public service Commission buses will be exempt from this directive,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Even then, all ZUPCO buses are required to observe and enforce social distance and disinfection guidelines in the course of offering their services.”
Essential service providers, producers, their staff and enabling service assisting in the COVID-19 response were exempted from the national lockdown to support the health sector.
CITE this morning witnessed some workers intending to go to work in town being left behind by ZUPCO buses after filling-up in Nkulumane 12.
Some of them said they had waited for transport from as early as 5am.
“I have been waiting here for the bus since 5am,” said one woman in the queue.
“ZUPCO buses were leaving us in the queue prioritising supermarkets employees.”
She said she felt discriminated by ZUPCO drivers and conductors, without disclosing where she was going but maintaining she fell under essential services which the mass public service transport should cater for.
Another passenger said the government should intervene to ensure the issue of transport for people providing essential services was given the priority it deserves.
“Government has to intervene in such scenarios as this is a national disaster,” she said.
“Some people have tendencies of wanting to benefit in such situations; we do not want to see that in ZUPCO buses.”
She added kombis should be allowed to complement ZUPCO buses which are failing to cater for everyone to ensure employees do not report to work very late.
However, one of the ZUPCO managers in Bulawayo depot, Pilung Tumelo Moyo, said all ZUPCO buses had been released in time to ferry people.
“All ZUPCO buses were released in time to ferry people. At the moment buses carry only 32 passengers while kombis carry only passengers as we are practising social distancing,” said Moyo.
He said he was not aware of some buses leaving people behind.
“What I know is that drivers were given an instruction to ferry people; I do not know why they were leaving some people behind or choosing other employees over others,” he said.
Meanwhile, private car drivers in the area were refusing to ferry people to the city as per the shutdown regulations.
A police vehicle was also seen in the area and one kombi driver got arrested for attempting to transport people.
In some roadblocks, police were ordering some passengers in the buses, whose reasons for travelling were not ‘valid’ to return home and acquire passes to get into town.