Government’s decision to reintroduce Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) buses in its commitment to build a safe and reliable transport system in the country, is noble.
Authorities behind the project deserve a pat on the back for a great initiative that mitigates transport challenges facing the nation. Ever since the revival of the Zupco mass transport system in Harare, Bulawayo and other cites, kombi operators have been forced to reduce their fares.
The rate at which people are abandoning services of kombis and going for cheaper conventional buses has become a serious threat to the existence of kombis. For example, kombis charge up to $7 for a single trip to Seke, Chitungwiza, while Zupco buses are charging a mere 75 cents for the same trip.
Hatfield commuters folk out up to $4 for a single trip to town, but those who use Zupco buses pay 50 cents.
In order to stay afloat, kombi drivers and some bus drivers have entered an unholy alliance which results in buses pulling off the road for hours daily, creating an opportunity for the kombi crews to make money. As if that is not enough, there are disturbing reports that private players contracted by Zupco are siphoning part of their daily diesel allocation, ranging from 100 litres to 150 litres and channelling it to the parallel market.
They make more money selling the diesel and remitting a paltry daily target of between $400 and $500 depending on the size of the bus.
To that end, Zupco’s loss control department must not just rest on their laurels, watching the shenanigans happen. If they are already on the ground, it’s now time for them to intensify their security operations to ensure all the offenders are brought to book.
There is need for the transport company to increase the number of inspectors to tightly monitor the buses as they service their respective routes.
In most cases, a bus may go for more than three trips without being inspected, a serious loophole that exposes the parastatal’s funds to fraud and theft.
Some buses are too old that their odometers are not functional at all, hence making it difficult to monitor their operations through mileage.
Early this year at least 100 bus conductors were fired from Zupco over theft of undisclosed funds through a ticket scam. Although the parastatal introduced an e-ticket system called “Tap-and-go”, the leakages have not been completely plugged. In most cases, conductors falsely announce faults on tap machines, with a view to compel commuters to pay cash, which ends up in individuals’ pockets.
The introduction of a tracking system to monitor all the buses is also an important measure to plug the gaps in the system.
Zupco must take a cue from City Parking Private Limited, which has a sophisticated tracking system that monitors all rank marshals and the parking lots in the city to prevent losses.