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Murky Zupco deal backfires

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Murky Zupco deal backfires

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GOVERNMENT’S army-backed populist decision to re-establish Zupco’s public transport monopoly, while banning commuter omnibuses has spectacularly backfired, leading to a severe crisis that has seen thousands of commuters in desperation.

MOSES MATENGA

When Zupco was failing and facing closure in 2019, with the army spearheading the project, the authorities decided to intervene and brought in their politically exposed person, businessman Kudakwashe Tagwirei, who is close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his family to supply buses for personal benefit. Mnangagwa and government have of late been presenting and commissioning new Zupco buses which are hardly visible on the streets.

Tagwirei’s Landela Investments reportedly purchased buses for Zupco at US$58 900 and sold them for US$212 962 each. Zupco has been buying hundreds of buses while hiring some to meet demand after the army warned that banning commuter omnibuses without an alternative could lead to public unrest. Besides buying new buses, the government also introduced the government also introduced the hiring system in the broader arrangement viewed as a populist move to appease restless masses by providing cheap transport.

“This was all meant to appease the restless masses who were always on the streets stranded for transport. There were fears by the Joint Operations Command (JOC) that any gathering of people waiting for kombis run by private players was a security threat,” The NewsHawks heard this week.

“They also made a populist decision on prices that were low and unsustainable for Zupco. In that way, we now had transport that became cheaper but unavailable.”

“When they were desperate, they brought buses that were unroadworthy as long as their wheels would turn. That is why you see most of them breaking down time and again.”

After the kombi bans, the government and Zupco removed the cobwebs from rusty commuter trains, introducing an urban railway service. That arrangement has failed to address the transport problems in the city.

Despite the imposition of the Zupco monopoly in public transport, the crisis has worsened, with commuters now having to queue for hours on end for transport. Pirate taxi operators have taken advantage of the desperation of commuters to charge exorbitant fares as high as US$2 to nearby suburbs that usually cost as low as US$0.50 while longer but local distances now cost US$4.

Even cabinet this week conceded that the Zupco monopoly had backfired, but failed to proffer a realistic solution to the public transport crisis and insisted measures will be put in place to address the crisis despite nothing happening on the ground.

“Cabinet wishes to clarify that government has not banned the operations of private contractors in the public transportation sector. While noting the apparent withdrawal of services by some operations, cabinet wishes to state that no effort is being spared in ensuring that the inconvenience to the travelling public is minimised,” Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said.

Cabinet also conceded that contracted private bus operators are owed huge amounts of money by Zupco.

“Government would like to assure the nation that Zupco is engaging with contractors with a view to ensuring that all arrears are settled and resolving any outstanding matters.” “Government has, however, noted with concern the proliferation of unlicenced vehicles (mushikashika) and unroadworthy vehicles commuting various routes. The public is informed that government, through the Zimbabwe Republic Police, will enforce the law without fear or favour for the safety of the travelling public. All vehicles without number plates will be impounded.”

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