The plight of the commuting public is set to get worse today as transport operators operating under the ZUPCO banner have said they will be withdrawing their vehicles today as they negotiate for better payment from the government. The operators say that the money they are getting from the government is no longer enough as costs have gone up. Meanwhile kombies remain banned for some inexplicable reason.

We are engaging and negotiating with authorities regarding challenges at Zupco.These include late payments, late review of hire fees and how we can deal with the hyperinflation that is threatening to stop the wheels from turning.

As operators, we have reached a situation where we are unable to service or maintain the vehicles, posing great risk to passenger safety. We have forwarded possible solutions to these challenges to Zupco and the Local Government ministry, but we are yet to receive a response.

Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators secretary-general Ngonidzashe Katsvairo 

Other fuming operators have railed against the bureaucratic processes they have to go through in order to renegotiate the terms of their contracts. With most costs now being paid in foreign currency, for example the cost of tyres and other spare parts, operators said they feel like there should be a flexible process that quickly allows them to engage the government to get their payments reviewed in line with inflation and rate movements.

The inexiplicable kombi ban

Kombis were banned during the first week of the current lockdown and they remain banned. However, while there was wisdom in banning kombis in the early days keeping the ban in place now makes little sense. Back then very few commuters were allowed to travel and ZUPCO buses were more than enough to ferry passengers to and from work. With the reopening of most parts of the economy ZUPCO buses have failed miserably to fulfil this task.

Some of the reasons given for keeping the ban in place include fears that the private operators will not allow social distancing to be observed in their vehicles as they put profit before safety. This is laughable. Faced with rising demand ZUPCO buses have since dispensed with social distancing. They now follow the same seating arrangements that kombis used to have.

In face maybe with kombis on the road, social distancing will be possible again. The government can just allow them to operate under strict health guidelines. Inspections can be carried out at the many roadblocks that they have put in place.