Absence of mobile and plastic money in public transport system exacerbates commuter woes

By Tafadzwa Muranganwa

Recently, there was a photo of commuters in Harare stampeding to board a lorry which went viral signally that the decay of the public transport system has reached alarming levels.

This article will cite how failure to fully adopt mobile and plastic money has exacerbated the commuting public’s daily woes.

Zupco Relief Short-Lived

When President Emmerson Mnangagwa ‘s government re-introduced the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company, known locally as Zupco, a subsidised public bus system, the commuting public welcomed the move as an end to their transport blues because of the steep fares of private operators but this was short-lived as the ZUPCO buses are inadequate.

The other challenge commuters have been grappling with is that the public transport system prefer hard cash to mobile money and plastic money and with ZUPCO introducing the tap card system.

Tap card system flaws

The tap card system was introduced to encourage a cashless society but instead of being a convenient way of transacting, most commuters are now resenting it because of its flaws.

While the public transport operator tried to entice people to buy the tap cards by giving preference to holders to board the buses first at pick up points, there have been allegations that the tap card system is in most instances down.

“I think I was among the first people to acquire the tap card but now I rarely use it because most of the time the conductors will be saying the system is down,” reveals Tendai Chikumbu, a commuter from Mufakose.

According to the Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) president Tafadzwa Goliati there was not much consultation by ZUPCO from relevant stakeholders before they introduced the tap card system hence it has failed to be efficient.

“The tap card system has hastily introduced no wonder why we are seeing this chaos. They(ZUPCO) should have consulted widely to ensure its efficiency,” argues the PAZ boss.

Security concerns

The fact that the tap card has no security features is also a huge concern.

“Why the tap card has no security features boggles my mind , it makes no sense that in this world of digital security, the designers  were not compelled to consider that.

“If I lose my tap card one can easily use it like it’s his or her own,”Kudakwashe Zari,a UZ student says.

Unconventional but  convenient?

Why there seems to be a trend with people boarding unconventional transport mode in most urban centres especially Harare it is because some of these motorists accept mobile money platforms to pay fares.

“I have a reliable lorry that I commute with and the owner accepts Ecocash so there is no need of me finding hard cash, ” states a Damofalls commuter who only identified himself as Masango.

Private Transport Operators adamant on cash

This publication spoke to The Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators (GHACO) Secretary General Ngoni Katsvairo says because of the 3 tier pricing system, operators favour cash to cut on costs of spare parts.

“It’s because of the 3 tier pricing system, spares are more expensive in RTGS than in cash or US,” defends Katsvairo.

Other reasons

According to an interim paper ‘A Cashless Society , Benefits, Risks and Issues by the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries says ‘financial exclusion, some will have difficulties with transition because of potential unreliable access to infrastructure and technology (physical and cognitive), financial and technological literacy, Including budget management, hidden agendas (suspicion),mistrust in banks and attachment to social value of cash.