By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
There has been a huge relief for most of the commuting public in Harare who were being charged exorbitant fares by commuter omnibus after government introduced conventional buses to ferry passengers in the city while it also wants to reciprocate the move to other cities and towns.
The buses are being co-ordinated by the ailing Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) which during its hey days before the plunder had enough fleets to service the whole country.
Radio VOP caught up with the Passengers Association of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Goliati whose organisation has been knocking on respective ministries to seek reprieve for commuters who were being overcharged by kombis felt this was long over-due.
“I am very pleased that the government has now come to the rescue of the urban commuters as they were now victims of profiteering by commuter omnibus operators who were increasing fares unabated.
“Every now and then the organisation was saddled with reports of harassment by touts especially on women commuters so its kudos to the government for the timely intervention, ” said the PAZ boss.
However, Goliati said there is also the need to resuscitate the commuter trains popularly known as ‘Freedom Trains’ owing to their low fares and his organisation has already started meeting with the National Railway of Zimbabwe (NRZ) regarding this.
Bulawayo, towards the end of last year re-introduced the commuter train charging 50c which the state rail company revealed in the local media that it had been well-received by commuters in the second capital.
Harare used to have the Ruwa-Harare and Mufakose-Harare commuter trains.
Tafadzwa Dombodzvuku a commuter from Glen View applauded the government for the introduction of the buses but is not sure whether the service is going to be continuous or it’s temporary.
“I boarded the bus from Glen View to town at $1 which is very affordable but what I don’t know is whether this will carry on because remember during economic meltdown between 2006 and 2008 there were conventional buses but they stopped plying when things started getting better so I am very skeptical that this maybe the same route we going,” doubts Dombodzvuku.
So far the government has introduced over 150 buses and is confident that more buses will be availed to other suburbs as more commuters are eagerly waiting for the service.
One such commuter is Charity Goho from Parktown, Waterfalls where she still has to fork out $1,50 for a trip since there is no any conventional bus plying that route.
“These buses should cover all routes because we are being ripped off, imagine paying $1.50 for a single trip,” fumed Goho.
Most commuter omnibuses have since slashed their fares after the introduction of the buses.
However, Mr Simbarashe Ngirande of the Urban Commuters Operators of Zimbabwe (UCOZ) said they are unfazed by the competition brought by the buses but pleaded with government to also support them.
“The introduction of buses to complement our kombis is not a problem, as an organisation we feel that the government should also consider us as we were providing the service thru when these bus operators and ZUPCO abandoned urban routes opting for long distance routes.
“ We have operators who are following rules and regulations of the sector , if also they can get fuel as the big buses are now being provided subsidised fuel,” asserted Ngirande.
For 55-year-old Theresa Makumbe from Old Mabvuku she thinks there is also need to refurbish bus termini in the city as most of them are now in state of dilapidation.
“I think most of the bus termini we have need to be spruced up because we are now subject to the vagaries of the weather because they are in a state of derelict,” she said.
Harare is reeling from congestion and the coming in of mass public transportation may come in handy to solve this puzzle.