Commuter bus owners, conductors and drivers under the ZUDAC banner have called for an end to ZUPCO monopoly. Back in 2020 the government banned all kombis and urban transport providers from the road under the guise of protecting us from COVID-19. They never allowed those kombis back onto the road and have instead spent millions of taxpayer dollars trying to prop up ZUPCO- the failed state monopoly for the umpteenth time. ZUPCO has consistently failed to meet demand ever since despite scores of bus owners being coopted into its ambit. At the same time, thousands of small businesses and jobs were destroyed overnight.

A lot of operators have tried to defy the government by operating illegally and some have switched to using ex-Jap cars such as Toyota Wish and Honda Fit with varying success. There is money to be made thanks to demand far outstripping ZUPCO’s capacity but they have found an obstinate and heavy-handed government. The government occasionally unleashes the police against mushikashika as the illegal operators are known. Usually, this just leads to the police demanding bigger bribes during operation days. These increased operating costs are then simply passed on to commuters. This past week we have seen the cost of getting into town sky-rocket from a usual US$0.50 to US$2 even for suburbs close to the CBD. For the dormitory city of Chitungwiza fares have gone as high asUS$4 depending on the time of day.

The government has been mum on these issues and now ZUDAC has called for dialogue:

The crisis in the transport sector has taken another level. There is a stalemate between the government and operators. There is no platform to discuss this because the door is closed.

The SI 83 of 2020 states that no one shall run public transport outside the Zupco franchise. The birth of this arrangement wasn’t inclusive.

It was imposed on operators. We were not given a chance to speak for our members. This system is surviving by force.

ZUDAC president Frederick Maguramhinga

A government of arrogance and statutory instruments

The so-called second republic has seen the rise of a government that cares little for consulting stakeholders. They adopted a father knows best attitude and everyone can go to hell. Their reign has been characterised by the over-use and abuse of statutory instruments which are unleashed with no warning whatsoever and these have wreaked the economy in unpredictable ways. The ZUPCO monopoly was introduced using SI 83 of 2020 and it stinks. The law is one of the many bad laws passed this way and it’s doubtful that it is even legal but the government has been ruthlessly exploiting the fact that such laws can stay on the books for aeons before some brave judge strikes them down.

Some people will call this bitterness but history has shown that ZUPCO’s monopoly will eventually crumble just as it has done many times before. Zimbabwe’s parastatals, of which ZUPCO is one, are cesspools of corruption. They are looting vehicles for bigwigs and run incompetently. Already those co-opted into the ZUPCO monopoly are not getting paid their dues. Eventually, they will pull out or simply stop remitting their receipts to ZUPCO. The company uses fixed fares not based on actual operational costs. In an eyebrow-raising incident even the National Railways of Zimbabwe, which ought to operate separately as stated in an Act of parliament was commandeered into the ZUPCO program.

Eventually, the money will run out as more and more parastatals and other looting vehicles demand attention and money. At that point, ZUPCO will be left to run “commercially” operate and run itself into the ground. It has happened countless times before. The government cannot repair roads or buy medicines at the moment as they print their way to money each week. As the rate spikes dead-weight which includes ZUPCO will be dropped. Eventually, private operators will rule the roads as they already unofficially do. Hopefully, we will not be paying a premium like we are right now to get into town.

N.B Some might want to blame the spike in fares on the war in Ukraine. That’s not a valid analysis, while the war has resulted in a rise in fares, it wasn’t the 300% increase we are seeing considering that fuel cost went up by about 40 US cents since then. That’s not even a 50% increase.