GOVERNMENT intends to extend the ban on privately-owned commuter omnibuses (kombis) beyond the national lockdown and will only allow them to operate under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) franchise.
This is part of elaborate plans to de-congest urban centres and modernise the public transport system.
Kombis have been barred from operating since the lockdown started on March 30.
In his lockdown measures review speech yesterday, President Mnangagwa extended the ban indefinite ly.
He said only Zupco-contracted kombis would be allowed on the roads.
Authorities intend to take advantage of depressed numbers of urban commuters during the lockdown to revamp and modernise the urban mass public transport system through deploying high-volume buses.
The Sunday Mail has gathered that Government has directed Zupco to invite interested kombi owners to register under its franchise as the number of commuters has increased following the relaxation of the lockdown rules.
Zupco is currently operating with 507 conventional buses and 500 commuter omnibuses, and is looking for an additional 500 kombis.
This comes as authorities were intensifying efforts to import new buses for inner and inter-city travel.
Local Government and Public Works Minister Dr July Moyo told this publication that there is no guarantee that kombis will be allowed back on the roads after the lockdown.
“We have been trying to build Zupco,” said Dr Moyo.
“So, throughout the lockdown we have said Zupco should operate. When we moved to Level 2, we knew there would be more people requiring transportation.
“We then asked Zupco to call for more kombis and buses to come and register and at the same time we will be introducing more buses. So the plan is to make sure that we strengthen urban bus transportation through Zupco so that we can bring sanity to the operations.”
He said urban transport systems operating through centrally managed high-volume buses were the trend globally. Informal transporters, said Minister Moyo, were the source of chaos in urban centres, particularly Harare.
“This is the trend in almost all countries. This informality about urban transport creates chaos in the CBD area. We are only going to see kombis on the road through Zupco for now, until we deal with Covid-19.”
He said kombis should register with Zupco as what would happen after Covid-19 “cannot be predicted”. He said kombis that are registered under the Zupco franchise will undergo rigorous fitness tests before they are deployed onto the roads.
“They are going to get examined through Central Mechanical and Engineering Department (CMED). We want it (kombi) in good fitness, which is a requirement for all public transport, in any case. Because if we keep on saying there will be no kombis and you have your kombi at home, it is no good.”
Announcing the lockdown extension yesterday, President Mnangagwa said only Zupco buses are allowed on the roads.
“Inter and intra provincial and district movement remains controlled. Commuter omnibuses/kombis, unregistered taxies (mushikashika) also remain banned.
“Only Zupco buses and Zupco contracted commuter omnibuses with the stipulated number of passengers, and adhering to the sanitisation and disinfection regulations will be permitted to operate.”
Urban planning expert Dr Percy Toriro said the current urban transportation system is plagued by inefficiencies. He said commuter omnibus operators should be organised.
“There was another problem that commuter omnibus operators have failed to organise themselves, as a result they have also shot themselves in the foot.
“If they were better organised it would be easier to support them. Moving forward I would recommend the current idea to only allow them to join Zupco as it is a progressive one.”
Dr Toriro said for their own independence, kombis needed to organise themselves better, operate more efficiently and respect their passengers.
“Generally let them improve the way they operate, because their criticism is that they abuse their passengers and they don’t respect road rules, so if they improve in those areas everyone will support them. We hope that the authorities are taking these measures to improve the way they operate.”