Pressure mounts over transport crisis

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BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/LORRAINE MUROMO/ VARAIDZO MUDEWAIRI
ZIMBABWE’s transport crisis yesterday attracted global attention with the Amnesty International (AI) berating the Zanu PF government for refusing to rescind the Zupco monopoly.

This came as Zupco drivers and conductors reportedly downed tools over salary and COVID-19 allowance arrears dating back to 2020, a development set to worsen public transport woes.

Commuters are spending hours in queues waiting for transport, while some have to risk life and limb travelling on bus carriers as Zupco buses fail to copy with demand.

In a statement yesterday, AI said the public transport shortage was negatively impacting on people’s freedom of movement.

“Amnesty international calls upon the government to address this challenge by opening up the public transport sector to private players with proper guidelines to ensure public safety,” AI said.

“We, therefore, call upon the government and relevant stakeholders to come up with relevant solutions to alleviate the transport challenge. They must consider engaging the private transporters and reach an amicable solution.”

Zupco staffers have been engaging in recurrent strikes in various cities throughout the country since the government banned private players from offering commuter omnibus services in 2020 citing COVID-19.

In an interview with NewsDay Weekender, Zupco Workers’ Council chairperson Douglas Serimani said:  “The employees have been requesting that they be given half of their salaries in United States dollars,” Serimani said.

“Salaries come late at Zupco and we had a works council meeting in Gweru on Wednesday, where employees implored the authorities to consider paying half of their salaries in US dollars and also ensure that they are paid on time.

“The company also owes the employees six months COVID-19 allowances which were not paid to them in 2020. Management has, however, promised to address all those issues.”

Zupco chief executive Evaristo Mandangwa curtly said he was not aware of the employees’ concerns.

“I am not aware of that. On the issue of their salary demands, those are our internal issues that have nothing to do with the public,” Mandangwa said.

Private players who joined the Zupco franchise also withdrew their services early this week citing non-payment, further adding to the transport woes.

Police recently launched an operation targeting pirate taxis commonly known as mushikashika which has resulted in commuters walking long distances to their various destinations.

The Passengers Association of Zimbabwe on Thursday gave Local Government minister July Moyo and Zupco 24 hours to resolve the transport crisis.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum is also demanding an end to a practice of throwing spikes on moving vehicles by the police to save lives.

Four people died, while eight others sustained injuries early this week in Mutare after police allegedly threw spikes at an illegal commuter omnibus with passengers, resulting in the vehicle overturning.

In a statement, NGO Forum said the use of spikes was criminal, unlawful, and violates the right to personal security.

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