By Thandiwe Garusa
ZIMBABWE United Passengers Company (ZUPCO)’s incapacitation has forced the government to reintroduce the unpopular old and dilapidated commuter train system.
However, the initiative has not been welcomed by most ordinary people as the trains are dirty, rusty, slow, have no lights inside making it difficult for passengers to travel in them during evenings.
The train costs $40 per trip, the same amount charged for ordinary ZUPCO buses.
The short-distance commuter trains have been lying idle for decades due to corruption and mismanagement at the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ).
Some of the trains had become a haven for criminal acts and for use by sex workers.
However, since their reintroduction early this week, the ZUPCO trains have been trending on social media platforms with people comparing the trains with those of other countries.
Most countries are now using bullet trains.
Journalist Hopewell Chin’ono cum activist tweeted: “When we say that (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa’s regime has taken us to the 1960s, this is what we mean.
“When Ian Smith stood next to these wagons in the 60s, little did he know that 55 years later, they would be unveiled as a public transport alternative.”
Another Twitter user Lima Mthethwa said: “The same trains they inherited from Ian Smith 42 years ago today they are renaming them ZUPCO buses. Register to vote 2023, Zanu PF must go.”
Divah Mukege also tweeted: “Resurrecting trains that were used before I was born? We do not want to see them. What a pity?
Runyararo added: “Instead of moving forward as a country we are going backwards.” while Obey Zvoutete observed: “Madness. If 10+ years old cars are not road worthy how are 55-year-old trains rail worthy? At least in the 60s, it was current; it was the best then but taking what belonged to the 60s to 2021 demands intense psychiatric examination.”
Lynne Stacia said: “Do you know that by next week we will not be talking about ZUPCO trains? They will not be there, they will be broken, but we will never recover the public funds that July Moyo and crew wasted fuel to go take pictures next to a dilapidated train.
However, the Information Ministry secretary Nick Mangwana defended the reintroduction of trains saying: “Seriously speaking I can take this any day. In terms of function, there is very little difference with many other metropolitan trains I have used. This is a safer option to both mushikashika and rowdy kombis.”
Last week, the police arrested over 200 people in Harare for using the illegal commuter omnibuses better known as mushikashikas.
The arrests saw stranded commuters waiting for hours for ZUPCO buses as they struggled to get to work or school and back home.