By Wellington Zimbowa
THE Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) has implored Government to urgently come to the rescue of commuters, through lifting the operational ban for private commuter omnibus operators, citing ZUPCO’s incapacity to meet the needs of travellers during this COVID- 19 induced lockdown.
Since the onset of the COVID- 19 that has been classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) government, through, SI 83 2020, only gave the green light to the state-run public transport entity for in-city travelling, while intercity has been halted in line with public health movement restrictive measures, to contain the spread of the disease.
Although the state public transport operator struck a partnership deal with private commuter bus operators to augment its depleted feet in an effort to meet the straining demand by commuters, indications are that the transport issue remains a bitter issue for authorities and travellers.
“We don’t deny the existence of COVID- 19 and its huge danger to public life and health. However, although we commend the government for its efforts in arresting the spread of the disease, we need to seriously reflect on the situation on the ground.
“Not only is ZUPCO materially and resource-wise incapacitated to deliver its mandate of transport services to the travelling public of Zimbabwe.
“There rife corruption by some of its staff members at terminuses and pick up points, who are taking advantage of public transport shortages to line their pockets from desperate travellers.
“So, its high time that other private operators are allowed to conduct their business, the kombis can come in through associations such as ZUDA, which makes them better manageable,” PAZ president Tafadzwa Goliath said.
In an interview with The BusinessConnect, Mr Goliati lamented the plight travellers are enduring, especially in Harare, where passengers are spending hours queuing up for buses, as transport options are limited, due to the lockdown restrictions.
According to Goliati, PAZ has been receiving reports of massive corruption at Harare’s Charge Office terminus housing the Chitungwiza bus station is the major corruption point, based on received reports by the voluntary public transport pressure group.
Mr Goliati added that his organisation is in constant communication with authorities, including ZUPCO management over the plight of travellers, urging them to record proof of corruption by any ZUPCO staff to the public transporter, but urged that if they go through a single unified voice it becomes more vocal.
“When reporting corruption, incidences by ZUPCO staff, the public is urged to have detailed proof such as time, date, place, staff name and number, as embedded on their uniforms as demanded by the company,” said Mr Goliati.
PAZ notes that crowding at bus terminuses due to shortage of buses contradict the whole spirit of social distancing and isolation in violation of WHO guidelines.
A security manager with a young Harare security company said their shift runs for 12-hours a day and due to the lockdown 6 am-6 pm curfew, his subordinates were having gross challenges going to and from home and appealed to the government to relook on that.
PAZ also notes that there should be a revisit to rules applying to critical essential services such as security companies, nurses and others whose work schedules make it inevitable to adhere to curfew restrictions.
Raising a note on the challenges presented by COVID- 19, Mr Goliath also noted that some people were failing to travel in search of medication because they are not regarded as essential services.
By Wellington Zimbowa