PRIVATE commuter omnibus operators and small cars, popularly known as mushikashika, are back on the road in most cities and towns defying President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ban on their operations during national lockdown.
BY GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA/SILAS NKALA
Mnangagwa (pictured) declared Zupco the sole public transport operator during the indefinite lockdown. However, the parastatal is failing to cope with the increased number of commuters and is not plying intercity and rural routes.
It is now business as usual in the small sugar-producing town of Chiredzi with residents throwing parties at various night spots, sit-in restaurants and shebeens.
Private transporters are also taking advantage of the hive of activity in the town.
Chiredzi district development co-ordinator Lovemore Chisema, who is also the vice-chairperson of the COVID-19 taskforce, said various business entities and individuals were violating lockdown regulations.
“Yes, I can confirm that a lot of people are doing business as if everything is normal. I have received several reports that there was activity at various night spots including the popular Showground over the weekend and that private transport operators, especially those plying Chiredzi-Save or Chiredzi-Checheche routes, are back on the road,” he said.
“We are going to convene an emergency meeting as COVID-19 taskforce because Chiredzi is at risk of an outbreak because of its porous borders which are used by illegal immigrants from Mozambique and South Africa. This has to stop immediately until the President has declared that the lockdown has been lifted, and everyone is allowed to do business like before.”
Chipinge South legislator Enoch Porusingazi (Zanu PF) said he had noted with concern the growing number of private operators illegally plying the Chiredzi-Checheche route.
“I have noted that in those small cars there is no social distancing. People are packed like sardines in the small vehicles and the vehicles are not sanitised, but those operators are already on the road. I appeal to the government to immediately introduce Zupco buses along those routes,” Porusingazi said.
The Zimbabwe Passengers Association (ZPA) called on government to lift the ban on private commuter omnibus due to escalating public transport shortages following the eased lockdown regulations.
The President maintained the ban on commuter omnibuses, but called on private operators to join the Zupco franchise.
ZPA secretary-general Paul Makiwa said the ban should be reversed to ease transport problems.
“We do applaud the State on the measures in place, but the same State should consider all the sides of the coin in terms of public transportation in urban, rural, farms, settlements and the whole country,” he said.
“When we look at our own Constitution, it talks of freedoms. The International Transport Treaty Agreements and even the World Health Organisation do not talk of monopolising the transport industry. It is sad that in Zimbabwe every operator is forced to operate under the wings of Zupco.”
“What the government must be doing is to make sure that all public transporters comply with the laws set and the precautionary measures on prevention of COVID-19 such as not overloading, sanitising, and maintaining social distance, not to ban some from operating,” he said.
“Before the lockdown and now Zupco was failing and it is failing to meet the demand of the urban commuters and there are many places where Zupco does not ply. In rural areas, we do have war vets who need to go and collect their money in urban places, what mode of transport will they use?”
Zupco has since called for more players to join its government subsidised programme.
Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa said she was in a meeting and would call back later, while Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana was not picking calls.