Freeman Razemba Senior Reporter
Members of the Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation (ZPTO) plan to import over 1 300 buses this year after the Government liberalised the public transport sector to have private companies on urban routes and allowing the import of buses duty-free.
On Saturday, President Mnangagwa announced that private companies will be able to be licensed to complement Zupco in public transport.
Previously, private companies could apply for rural and intercity licences, but could only be franchised with Zupco for urban services.
Kombi owners too could apply for Zupco urban franchises, but nothing else.
To help operators equip for expanding services, they will benefit from a duty-free import scheme for buses valid for a year.
On Sunday evening, transporters held a meeting in Harare following the announcement.
In an interview yesterday, ZPTO chairman Dr Sam Nhanhanga said during the meeting they agreed that they will import about 1 300 buses during the given timeframe.
“As private players, we have agreed that we are going to bring 1 300 more buses within those 12 months since we already have existing facilities,” he said.
“We are also prepared to meet the regulations that will be issued by Government.”
Dr Nhanhanga said long distance buses will continue ferrying urban commuters to and from work as they had recently announced, in a move expected to ease transport challenges.
Recently, Zupco thrashed a deal with local transport operators after they withdrew their buses citing low payments that were no longer economic.
The withdrawal of buses led to serious transport challenges across the country, but mainly in Harare.
Last week, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development doubled hire fees for kombis from $10 000 to $20 300 to motivate private players to join the franchise.
Negotiations for a review of hire fees for privately owned high-volume buses are ongoing and will likely be completed this week, but indications are that the rate could go up to about $70 000.
Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators secretary general Mr Ngonidzashe Katsvairo said they were happy that the challenges they had highlighted to the President were immediately addressed.
“Our main grievances of the need to preserve the value of our hire fees through early payment and review was addressed,” said Mr Katsvairo.
“Another issue that needs immediate address for the safety of commuters is the prohibitive duty on tyres, where we are required to pay import duty plus surcharge of US$5 per kg per tyre.
‘‘This is excessive as one tyre weighs up to 15kg.
“To that end, we are very thankful to the Ministry of Finance whose Secretary chaired the Saturday meeting which addressed most of our immediate challenges.”
As a medium-term solution, Mr Katsvairo suggested that Government allows private kombis, but under registered association franchises not as individual players, to complement Zupco as happened with intercity buses.
“It is the association franchise that will then self-regulate, train crew on customer care, and discipline any errant franchise operator,” he said.
He said the franchise will also be registered for income tax, PAYE, NSSA and for all other formal business statutory requirements.
Mr Katsvairo said they were happy that their request for support to grow from kombi to bus operators through provision of duty-free purchase of buses was immediately granted by President Mnangagwa.