MUTARE – The Minister of State for Manicaland province – Ellen Gwaradzimba – has attributed the stampedes at Zupco designated pick-up points to commuters who are travelling without genuine purposes, saying the buses are not meant for luxury.
Gwaradzimba was responding to journalists at a Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ) press club meeting on Wednesday to discuss the extent of COVID-19 impact in Manicaland province.
The meeting was also attended by Mutare City Council health officials as well as residents.
Journalists and residents expressed concern over the acute shortage of buses to ferry commuters following the re-opening of various businesses, a move that has resulted in commuters stampeding to board the few buses available, exposing them to the high risks of contracting the deadly coronavirus, an infection that has wreaked havoc globally.
There are growing fears that commuters are not observing the physical distance in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendations.
“The Zupco bus-stops are hotspots. There is need to carry the necessary measures to solve the issue of overcrowding,” Gwaradzimba said.
The minister is also chairperson of the COVID-19 Manicaland Province Taskforce team.
“We admit that Zupco buses are failing to cope with the higher demand, but we have to ask that where are all these people going?” she queried.
“Some are just going into town for luxury.
“The Zupco buses are not for luxury. People must move to town for genuine purposes and not for just luxury and whiling-up time,” Gwaradzimba said.
“These people are causing unnecessary commotion and stampedes at pick-up points.
“l have, However, received complaints and concerns from residents, so l have engaged the relevant authorities, including the Manicaland Omnibus Association to come up with modalities to save the situation,” she said.
The ZUJ national secretary, general Foster Dongozi, called on the government to provide adequate personal protective clothing to journalists, as they were frontliners.
“Journalists are playing a pivotal role in giving information to the communities with regards to the COVID-19 day and night, but they are being sidelined when it comes to protective clothing, sanitisers and disinfectants, among others,” he said.
Dongozi said journalists would continue to engage with the government, local authorities and residents, among other stakeholders, in disseminating information that is aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.
Gwaradzimba also said government would consider and act on the concerns raised by journalists in the wake of safety during coverage of COVID-19 issues. – Zim Morning Post