The MDC Alliance has urged the government to address the root cause of public transport problems in the country and stop punishing the commuting public.
This week police announced passengers who board buses, commuter omnibuses (kombis) and private cars that are not registered under ZUPCO would pay fines of ZWL$2000 per person as means to stop those who flouted Covid-19 regulations.
However, this move was widely condemned by citizens who pointed out ZUPCO has no capacity to ferry every passenger whenever they needed to travel and that imposing hefty fines would not solve the transport challenge.
“Ever since the introduction of ZUPCO as the sole mass public transporter in Zimbabwe, the MDC Alliance had warned the government of the dire consequences of this unreasonable move,” said MDC Alliance National Secretary for Transport, Settlement Chikwinya.
Chikwinya noted that seeing people stranded was a result of bad planning by the government.
“Consequences of monopolising the transport sector more so with an inept government-controlled company with a deep history of failure were foreseeable from the start,” he said, adding, “ZUPCO is incapable to serve the growing mass of travellers both for intra and intercity.”
The MDC Alliance said the failure by ZUPCO to serve the public created an opportunity for private players to serve the “needy” travellers.
“Most of these private players have always been registered as transporters but have been pushed out of business at the introduction of ZUPCO as the sole transporter,” Chikwinya highlighted.
“What government needs to realise is that the ZUPCO registered vehicles are too few as compared to the demand by travellers. This, therefore, means that faced with a crippling shortage of transport, travellers will resort to private players.”
Chikwinya said in an attempt to curb the spread of the infectious Covid-19 disease, a ‘people centred’ government would have allowed registered private transporters to ferry people under a regulated environment.
“The regulated environment includes one – a reduced number of passengers in order to allow for social distancing. Three quarters of normal carrying capacity is recommended. Two -regular sanitisation of the vehicle at the end of each trip and three – the insistence of masks on all passengers on board,” said the MDC Alliance secretary for transport.
“The government’s insistence on the current ZUPCO model where buses are always overloaded and fail to observe any Covid-19 protocol corroborates what Chikwinya said was “one among many of the looting vehicles by close associates to Zanu-PF leadership.”
“It’s not about the people but always about profiteering at every opportunity,” he said.
“Demanding fines from passengers of private vehicles is an unimaginable act from a careless government, which does not deserve any day longer in office.”
Meanwhile, the government’s spokesperson, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Nick Mangwana said they realised the difficulties faced by the commuting public especially in Harare Friday, as they tried to find their way home.
“It’s not the intention of the government to inconvenience citizenry. A lasting solution to our urban transport woes is being implemented. We are sorry for the inconveniences experienced,” he said.
In its Twitter account, ZUPCO on Friday noted the company witnessed an increase in passengers as the pirating vehicles were taken off the road.
ZUPCO, however, claimed, “By 1930 hours, we had managed to clear most of the ranks in Harare, we will continue to do better and help eradicate mushikashika chaos in our cities.”