Fuel shortage grounds Zupco

Some workers, including drivers, are now reporting for duty just to register on the logbook, but with nothing to do, insiders said.

ZIMBABWE Passenger Company (Zupco) operations have been grounded due to fuel shortage for its fleet, NewsDay has gathered, as wheels come off the mass public transport operator amid allegations of managerial incompetence and interference by the political elite.

Some workers, including drivers, are now reporting for duty just to register on the logbook, but with nothing to do, insiders said.

“Our fuel depots are dry and there is no fuel for the buses. Our routes have been suspended due to the fuel crisis,” an insider said.

“Ironically, the country has enough fuel, but it is now three weeks without fuel at the Zupco main depots.”

A leaked WhatsApp message revealed that regional managers are failing to access fuel allocations for their depots.

‘‘I requested fuel from the financial director and was told that there is no cash as it was only used to purchase fuel for private hires. I then requested a credit facility and was told that as Zupco there’s no room to get one since we are still having outstanding credits,’’ part of the message read.

The manager revealed that Zupco has been blacklisted from purchasing fuel from private fuel dealers.

“Our company policy doesn’t allow us to buy fuel at divisional level or allow crews to go and load and buy fuel later. Requests were submitted to head office, but nothing is coming out,” the message added.

According to investigations, suspected mismanagement at senior management level has resulted in the “company’s financial mess”.

Some top officials allegedly allocated themselves allowances during Zanu PF campaign rallies ahead of 2023 general elections.

Disgruntled workers said top management attended the Zanu PF provincial star rallies across the country, with each pocketing US$300 in allowances.

“For every Zanu PF provincial star rally, at least 10 senior managers attended and each was allocated US$300 in allowances,’’ said an insider speaking on condition that he is not named.

It is alleged that Zanu PF paid for fuel at PetroTrade service stations around the country, where it was allocated to hired buses.

“Part of excess fuel was never accounted for by the managers, who would connive to channel it to personal use as part of a grand looting scheme,’’ an insider said.

“This has seen the company failing to operate fully besides access to resources.”

Some workers claimed  that depots like Belvedere, under the Northern Harare Division region, used to get an allocation of 2 000 litres that did not last three days.

“Some buses were later forced to lie idle while private companies operated in some routes without Zupco competition,’’ added another source, also speaking on condition of anonymity.

Zupco is now under the Mutapa Investment Fund.

“Some of the company losses are man-made and self-inflicted due to corruption, nepotism and lack of professionalism by senior officials who took it as a looting scheme,’’ added another source.

John Mangudya, the Mutapa Investment Fund chief executive officer, referred NewsDay to the Zupco board when contacted for a comment.

“The issues that you have raised are under the purview of the Zupco board in terms of good corporate governance,’’ Mangudya said in a written response.

Zupco board chairperson Jemister Chininga requested questions in writing.

He did not respond to the questions.

Acting chief executive officer Linda Samunderu did not respond to text, WhatsApp messages and calls on her phone at the time of writing.

Former Zanu PF secretary for finance Patrick Chinamasa was elusive on how much the ruling party paid for hiring buses, including Zupco for the party’s star rallies in 2023.

‘‘I don’t discuss business relationships of our customers, clients and suppliers with outsiders, let alone journalists and newspapers,’’ Chinamasa said.

In February, Zupco terminated contracts with private bus companies plying urban routes.

In 2020, Zupco jingles were released praising President Emmerson Mnangagwa for reintroducing the forgotten mass public transport system.

Government reintroduced the long-abandoned Zupco in January 2019 to ease the burden of high transport costs faced by commuters.

That was before COVID-19 swept through the country.

Zupco buses have been used to ferry Zanu PF supporters to ruling party events, including rallies, leaving commuters stranded.

During the late Robert Mugabe’s reign, Zupco buses emblazoned with big posters of former First Lady Grace Mugabe, were a common sight.

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