Blessings Chidakwa-Municipal Reporter
Shelters at bus terminuses countrywide will be repaired, replaced or installed before the next rains as part of a Government programme to upgrade urban public transport President Mnangagwa announced yesterday as he commissioned the latest batch of 50 new buses for the Zupco fleet with another 100 already paid for and expected soon.
The renovation of terminuses, where years of local authority neglect and vandalism have left most in a sorry state, will make a significant difference for passengers and complement Government efforts to rebuild Zupco as an adequate service and then as a first-class service.
Speaking during the commissioning of the latest addition to the fleet at Zupco Headquarters in Belvedere, Harare, the President said the new buses will be distributed in urban areas while remaining towns will benefit from 100 buses that are coming soon.
The six batches of Chinese Golden Arrow buses have added more than 400 buses to the public transport fleet and the Government is committed to a continuing process to add more.
The new buses will go to Victoria Falls, Chinhoyi, Harare, Kadoma, Kwekwe, Gweru, Bulawayo, Zvishavane, Masvingo and Mutare.
“Today marks the sixth commissioning following the commitment made by the Government of Zimbabwe to prioritise a comprehensive urban public transport system so as to increase convenience, reliability and comfort to our commuting public.
Turning to terminuses, the President said these had to be upgraded with new or repaired shelters. Funds had been set aside for the work.
“I appeal to our young entrepreneurs and companies to come forward and do this job,” he said.
President Mnangagwa urged Zupco to move towards scheduling services and create a sound system where the time of buses arrival and departure were predetermined to give commuters ample time to plan.
“I am aware that recently there was a serious shortage of transport for the public, these buses were needed yesterday at work. I am informed that the company has since started mechanical works and managed to put back old buses on the road. The National Development Strategy whose vision is towards a prosperous and empowered upper middle income society by 2030 outline transportation as one of our economic growth enablers. So these buses are demonstrative of that need,” he said.
The President applauded Zupco for trying its best during these trying times, especially at the peak of Covid-19 by ensuring the continued transportation of essential workers and for the new routes they have established.
Chairperson of the Zupco management committee Dr Engineer Quinton Kanhukamwe said the fleet size increased from a mere 76 buses in 2018 to a massive 789 conventional buses and 1 064 commuter omnibuses, inclusive of the franchised fleet from strategic partnerships in the private sector.
The President further urged all relevant authorities to continue their efforts in investing in basic infrastructure.
“As we implement the devolution programme, we envisage to ensure active participation of all citizens in the main economic mainstream. Devolution thrives when we make meaningful investment in public transportation systems,” he said.
President Mnangagwa also commended the private sector companies who are working on a programme to bring kits and assemble buses locally saying this was the way to go under the Second Republic.
“I urge those companies to continue with the current efforts and are assured of my Government’s support, however they must ensure that technology is embraced in all those efforts,” he said.
On Zupco, the President called upon the company to ensure they urge the commuting public to follow the stipulated Covid-19 guidelines when boarding buses.
“Two days ago I relaxed the Covid-19 measure which now allows buses to be filled to the full, but everybody must wear a mask. Those who refuse should not board the bus because it is necessary that we remain vigilant as a country and as a people to ensure that we fight the spread of this pandemic together, collectively as a nation. These are some of the requirements which we need to observe,” he said.
The President also reiterated the need for the nation to be vaccinated. “While vaccination is free and voluntary I wish to urge all our citizens to take advantage of the rollout by the Ministry of Health vaccination programme to access vaccination. I am aware that there are private companies, a very limited number of them, whom we have allowed to vaccinate at a minor cost, but as Government we do it freely.
“For those who do not wish to be vaccinated, we are a democracy. But spreading of the virus is undemocratic. For me and you to be safe there is need for both of us to be vaccinated so that you are safe and I am safe,” he said.
Vice President Constantino Chiwenga lauded the Zupco and National Railways of Zimbabwe partnership for putting in proper rail services integrated into the bus services noting that this would go a long way in moving around the people.
The second of the new Harare services, the City-Ruwa route with stops for Mabvuku and Tafara, started yesterday with the free maiden trip. Zupco at the same noted that it had now received the coaches for the City-Tynwald route and that would be launched soon. The service uses a single ticket for the train and the feeder buses that bring passengers to the loading points or take them home.
A passenger, Mr Shadreck Moyo expressed gratitude to the Government for availing an affordable transport system. “In terms of transport this is a very welcome development we were losing a lot of money from mushikashika. Also our lives were in danger due to speeding by the illegal pirate taxis,” he said.
Mrs Loice Kutsi said the initiative by NRZ and Zupco needed to be permanent. “This is a relief for passengers my hope is that this good gesture will continue.”