By Mbekezeli Ncube
OPERATORS under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise in Bulawayo have gone back to overloading their buses at a time police have intensified operations aimed at stopping pirate transporters.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently vowed his government shall stop illegal commuter transport operators.
This has been followed with a police blitz of kombi operators in the city.
The police action has worsened an already dire transport situation in the country’s second capital with commuters often reporting for work late.
Government banned privately owned transport operations early last year as a way of limiting the spread of Covid-19, leaving the public bus transporter to operate while aided by buses and kombis that agreed to operate under ZUPCO.
However, ZUPCO used to cope with the ratio of passengers to buses during the time when exemption letters were required for one to travel but are now evidently overwhelmed following the relaxation of the national lockdown.
Speaking to NewZimbabwe.com Thursday, many residents say they are being packed into buses in violation of government imposed ratios of passengers who should be allowed onto buses.
Shylet Moyo from Lobengula West said kombis should return as they were more convenient transport.
“They should return for convenience because buses often take longer to reach our destinations.
“This is different with kombis which would fill up in no time even though they are a bit expensive in terms of their fares.
“I think the private sector and ZUPCO should work together because the ZUPCO buses do not have capacity to transport all commuters. For example, this week, many commuters are stranded and there are no kombis.
“There is no use in denying private commuter omnibus the right to operate. The coming back of kombis will also create employment for the youths,” said Thandeka Mthiyane, who is based at Barham Green low-density suburb.
Thabani Mlambo said there was nolonger any reason to continue using Covid-19 as a as excuse to bar commuter omnibuses from operating.
“It was a lie from the word go that they want to stop the spread of coronavirus. The government just wanted to monopolise the transport sector just like they do in almost everything else.
“Kombis must come back because it’s very clear that ZUPCO cannot manage on their own,” said Mlambo.
Rejoice Sibanda from Gwabalanda also said she would want kombis to return onto the road.
“We are busy preaching the gospel of social distancing and all that, yet the buses are busy overloading.
“How then are we maintaining the spread of Covid-19 by allowing kombis to operate. We are relieving the strain on the buses,” he said.
Sibanda said the need to allow kombis to return was further buttressed by the recent opening of schools which has seen the demand for public transport increase.
Government has maintained private operators under ZUPCO will be the only ones allowed to operate.