By Owen Dhliwayo
The need for an efficient and affordable urban transport system in Zimbabwe has outgrown the prevailing ZUPCO model and thus calls for a reconfiguration of the status quo.
This week, urbanites woke up to the news that NRZ was roped in to be prop up the urban transport system.
The inclusion of rail transportation into the urban system is a noble initiative. However, the manner and the timing of the initiative bring with it both skepticism and mockery.
Public transport system especially in urban areas suffered greatly due to the liberalisation policies adopted by the government in the 1990s.
During the run-up to the 2018 harmonised elections, Zanu PF produced an 82-page document that outlined their manifesto.
In it, the political party stated that it will “capacitate NRZ and revamp the railways infrastructure including the signals...”
The current railway system had not seen any major improvement since the early twentieth century. Three years into their mandate, they provide Zimbabweans with a twentieth century antique.
Zimbabwe is one of the member states that are signatories to the SADC Protocol on Transport Communications and Meteorology with Article 7.1 categorically states that “Member States shall facilitate the provision of a seamless, efficient, predictable, cost effective, safe and environmentally friendly railway service which is responsive to market needs and provides access to major centers of population and economic activity.”
The recent move by the government in terms of this SADC Protocol cannot be termed as efficient, predictable or safe as it resurrected decommissioned railway locomotives.
The nation requires a fully functional modern urban transport system to enhance population movement and economic activity.
In Zimbabwe, it becomes difficult to capacitate the railway infrastructure as most politicians who are mandated with policy making are alleged to be heavily involved in the haulage trucking business.
This creates a situation where it is profitable for them to have a railway system that continues facing capacitation challenges.
On 15 April 2013, government launched its first national transport policy that seeks to co-ordinate the development of infrastructure, mobilize resources and encourage participation of the private sector through public-private sector partnerships.
In reality, since 2013, we have witnessed a serious lack of an integrated approach in the railway infrastructure investment.
Zimbabweans end up being asked to ply their routes in dilapidated locomotives risking their lives. There is no safety surety accorded to the general populace.