A major urban transport disaster is waiting to strike when Zimbabwean schools seal their reopening phase this Monday following a government ban on private transporters coupled with continued restrictions on intercity travel.
Government this week took a more drastic measure to get rid of pirate taxis whose passengers are now liable to $2000 fines per head if found boarding the so-called mushikashika.
The stance by the state backfired Friday and this Saturday when thousands of commuters were left stranded as a result of the transport crisis.
With schools opening for the rest of the learners Monday, a bigger disaster is waiting to strike.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (Ptuz) regretted that teachers and school children are some of the commuters who will be caught up in the mess.
“The idea that from 6 Nov, teachers & learners will be part of this nonsense is revolting and in bad taste. Gvt should sort out this mess. Public transport shouldn’t be this difficult to organise. There are simply not enough Zupco buses to ferry learners to and from schools,” said the teachers group via its Twitter handle.
There are also fears the existing Zupco bus fleet which is servicing urban routes during the ban on intercity travel could return to its routes during the anticipated lifting of the embargo, leaving the situation even more dire.
Government spokesperson and Information ministry permanent secretary Nick Mangwana Saturday issued a casual apology for the Friday mess.
The Zanu PF led administration has come under fire for poor management of the country’s public transport system following a summary ban on kombis during the outset of the Covid-19 induced lockdown last year.
The ban has resulted in a huge urban transportation gap that was being filled partially by private motorists who now face the punitive fines.
Commenting on Friday’s chaos, Zupco promised to do better.
“Today we witnessed an increase in passengers as Mushikashika was taken off the road.
“By 1930hrs we had managed to clear most of the ranks in Harare. We will continue to do better and help eradicate Mushikashika chaos in our cities,” said the company Friday.
Outspoken independent legislator for Norton Temba Mliswa slammed government for overpromising and failing to deliver.
“Zupco simply does not have the capacity to carry all the people. Just that Govt over-promises and people are constantly taken for a ride,” he said.
Also commenting on Twitter Saturday, MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa described the Zupco monopoly as “illegal and evil”.
“We said this in May 2021. It has only gotten worse. The illegal ZUPCO monopoly is heartless and evil. Command transport has failed, must fall &end! Zim deserves quality. We will provide efficient world class urban transport, trams, trains and modern buses.#spaghettiroads #bullettrains,” he said.