The Sunday News
Vusumuzi Dube, Online News Editor
REGISTERED taxi associations in Bulawayo have started putting in place modalities to bring back hundreds of their vehicles on the road following an announcement by Government that private commuter omnibuses can return to the road for intra-city routes.
Hundreds of commuter omnibuses had been parked for more than two years while some had joined the Zupco franchise since the Government had banned them from the road as part of Covid-19 regulations to stop the spread of the disease.
President Mnangagwa, early this month, announced the liberalisation of the public transport sector, coupled with benefits from a duty-free importation scheme for buses valid for a year. Local Government and Public Works Minister Cde July Moyo said the Government was putting in place legislation that will govern the operations of commuter omnibus operators.
“For now we are putting in place legislation meant to govern the operations of these operators because like any other industry there have to be rules guiding them in an effort to protect the commuters. Some of these guidelines will include the obvious, which are the vehicle fitness and also charging guidelines, our main aim being to maintain sanity in this industry,” said Minister Moyo.
The Bulawayo City Council, which before the ban on private operators in the provision of intra-city transport, had a transport policy that implored the division of routes among registered associations, has said it was waiting for the direction from the Government on how they could run the public transport system in the city.
“In the communication on opening up of public transportation to private players, Government advised that it will give policy guidelines on how this is to be done. The City of Bulawayo awaits the policy direction from the Government of Zimbabwe accordingly,” said Mrs Nesisa Mpofu, Bulawayo City Council corporate communications manager.
According to the city’s transport policy, associations recognised by BCC are the Bulawayo Urban Passenger Transport Association (Bupta), Tshova-Mubaiwa and City Transit. Tshova-Mubaiwa spokesperson Mr Atlas Moyo declared that they were ready to get back on the road after they had taken a long absence to purchase key Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like sanitisers and face masks for their members. He said they were also busy training their members on Covid-19 prevention issues and the importance of adhering to the protocols, to ensure that by the time Government announces the set guidelines they hit the ground running.
“We are ready to go back to the road. We have already summoned all our members to help in the preparations. We had already purchased PPEs using money we had saved up and we will be distributing them among our members, remember this is the new normal hence our vehicles must ensure that they adhere to the set Covid-19 protocols.
Further, we have instructed our members to start taking their vehicles to the Vehicle Inspection Department to get their road fitness certificates because we don’t want to endanger any of our passengers by forcing them to board unroadworthy vehicles,” said Mr Moyo.
He, however, called on the Government to give the operators a grace period of up to six months to renew their road and route permits noting that a majority of the operators had lost close to two years of business hence needed to raise the required fees first.
“The fact is that most if not all our members now have expired permits hence our plea is that the Government gives us a grace period of say six months to allow us to raise the required monies, this can be done in a special provision where operators will be given clearance letters. It is a request from our members. However, in the meantime we are continuing with our engagement efforts with the Government and our members, we are committed to adhering to whatever guidelines are given to us by the Government for the betterment of the industry,” said the Tshova- Mubaiwa spokesperson.
BUPTA spokesperson Mr Keeper Ndlovu said as associations they had the task of stepping up their internal trainings on Covid-19 prevention protocols, noting that these were now the key guidelines for any industry operations.
“For now the idea is for us to continuously conscientise our members to ensure that they put in place all the measures for them to be ready to resume operations. Emphasis is on the Covid-19 protocols, there is a need to step up our training and also ensure that all our vehicles are safe in terms of adhering to the prevention protocols,” said Mr Ndlovu.
According to the Bulawayo City Council transport policy, all kombi owners have to belong to an association.
The policy enables council to approach the association when players start operating illegally and can be easily traceable in case they commit offences.