Zupco partners in hard times as arrears hit ZW$6 billion

In the past few years, Zupco has bolstered its fleet with the private operators, after being overwhelmed by high demand.

SEVERAL commuter omnibus operators contracted by state-owned Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) to augment its fleet have fallen on hard times due to delayed payments, the Zimbabwe Independent can report.

In the past few years, Zupco has bolstered its fleet with the private operators, after being overwhelmed by high demand.

Most of the pressure was exerted on Zupco after government tightened the screws on commuter omnibus operators when Covid-19 hit the world in 2020, forcing governments to review public transportation systems.

This week, Zupco’s partners in the deal disclosed that up to ZW$6 billion (about US$1 million) owed to the private operators were locked up at the firm, and many of them were threatening to pull out.

“Zupco has failed to pay bus contractors for the past three months,” one operator told the Independent, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The arrears have reached ZW$6 billion. Most private bus operators are now threatening to withdraw until they are paid.”

Tineyi Rwasoka, chief executive officer at Zupco, did not respond to the Independent’s questions after requesting for written submissions.

 “Send the questions on my email,” he said.

The firm operates under the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works.

John Basera, permanent secretary in the ministry, also did not respond to the Independent’s questions.

Experts warned of a deteriorating public transport system if Zupco’s partners withdraw service.

This will likely amplify an already desperate situation, especially in cities and towns, where commuters are going through difficult circumstances as the passenger transport fleet shrinks.

The government opened the Zupco franchise to private-to-private operators as part of efforts to address mass transport woes.

It ordered all private bus operators to be contracted under Zupco for them to be allowed to operate in the country.

Police have been impounding commuter omnibuses operating in defiance of the government’s directive.

In 2022, the country’s transport crisis attracted global attention with Amnesty International berating government for refusing to rescind the Zupco monopoly.

This week’s development came as Zupco drivers and conductors reportedly downed tools over salaries and Covid-19 allowance arrears dating back to 2020, a development which worsened public transport woes.

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