BY BRENNA MATENDERE
PRIVATE commuter operators under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) franchise have not been paid by government since November 14 this year it has emerged.
Reports say that they went for Christmas empty-handed, leading to several operators threatening to quit.
This was revealed by the Greater Harare Commuter Omnibus Association secretary-general, Ngonidzashe Katsvairo, who told NewsDay in an interview that the situation was getting out of hand.
“The payment backlog is now one month. We are paid every two weeks so that in turn we also pay our workers and service the vehicles. There is now a salary backlog and our vehicles have not been serviced, which will compromise the safety of passengers as both the driver and the vehicle will not be fit for the road mentally and physically,” he said.
Katsvairo warned that the anger among the Zupco franchise operators may result in increased accidents as drivers are now suffering emotionally due to lack of payment. Zupco has a virtual monopoly over the public transport system after government banned private operators since the COVID-19 outbreak.
On Christmas eve, angry private transport operators under the Zupco scheme besieged the headquarters of the national carrier in Harare demanding their money.
This resulted in ugly scenes.
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“Passenger transport is our livelihood so we will soldier on, but with the status quo we will be putting lives of passengers at risk. We will continue to engage the government for early and adequate payments. They are failing to pay but we are alleviating transport challenges in the country,” he said.
Katsvairo then suggested that the government allow Kombis back on the roads.
“We have requested the government to recognise associations so that they can self-regulate and monitor errant operators just as professional associations do, such as those of lawyers, accountants, estate agents and others. There will be order,” he said.
The Zupco deal with private players states that kombi operators must be paid $4 000 daily and that buses will be paid $18 000 daily to cover operational costs. But the operators say it is inadequate.
Zupco chief executive Evaristo Madangwa was said to be out of Harare. He did not respond to calls on his mobile phone.
Transport minister Biggie Matiza was also not picking up calls yesterday.
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