Harare traffic jungle, case of a clueless government

THREE months into the job, Local Government minister July Moyo appears to have no clue, as to how to address Harare’s traffic jungle, let alone in the other towns and cities.

NewsDay Comment

The violent scenes that led to the death of two by-standers and injured another four, as police and the commuting public fought running battles in the capital’s central business district on Thursday, point to a continuation of the failed policies of former President Robert Mugabe’s administration.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first 100 days in office are up a few days from now, and there has not been any indication that the traffic chaos in Harare will be resolved.

Consultations have not even begun and there is no concept paper on the table to begin the process of resolving what has become a national eyesore and embarrassment.

The move to just wake up and ban commuter omnibuses from driving into the city, as a way of de-congesting the capital boomeranged big-time, resulting in unnecessary loss of life and property by a paranoid police force that has always been trigger happy.

Reports that the decision was mooted by Moyo’s ministry and the Joint Operations Command make disturbing reading. Zimbabweans welcomed the military intervention in November because it resonated with their aspirations for a new political culture and dispensation, but this should never be misconstrued to translate to their happiness with continued civil-military conflation in their everyday lives.

Firstly, government must set up a tribunal to investigate the cold-blooded murder on Thursday night and the results of this investigation should be made public without delay.

The tribunal must also investigate how the decision to ban commuter omnibuses from the central business district was arrived at and how the tenders were awarded to particular transport operators.
Harare is a public entity whose operations should never be shrouded in secrecy. Moyo is a respectable man, but this could all go down the drain, if this issue is not handled well.

Citizens deserve answers and relatives of those who were caught in the crossfire deserve to know nothing but the truth. The days of a heavy-handed approach to governance are over.

Secondly, the Ministry of Local Government must urgently convene an all-stakeholders gathering, to come up with lasting solutions to the traffic problems afflicting all the country’s urban centres.

This should be an open process not some opaque, alley gathering from which knee-jerk decisions are made under the cover of darkness to benefit a clique.

Harare needs massive infrastructure overhaul and investment, not the piecemeal approach that Moyo wants to use.

Unfortunately, the city fathers are also at their wits end but Zimbabwe is not short on human capital.

Moyo and his sidekicks at Harare Town House need to look in the right places, bring together intellectuals with the requisite qualifications to come up with a clear transport masterplan that will not only make money for the city but serve residents optimally with as little inconvenience as possible. It can be done, what we lack for now is political will to reform.

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