Chaos engulfs troubled Zupco


The Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco), a state-owned public transportation provider, is in the centre of an alleged corruption and mismanagement storm, involving top management and private operators.

Buses and kombis spend the majority of their time parked at the Belvedere depot, Harare, according to reliable sources within the organisation, but still get paid for services not rendered.

Sources claimed that the private operators would fill out waybills with the full knowledge of upper management, which would then be used to obtain money from the government despite not having provided any services.

A waybill, sometimes known as a journey form, is a piece of paperwork necessary for local passenger transportation by coaches or bus companies within Zimbabwe.

It includes details about the crew and the bus as well as notes on the fleet's daily activities, including fleet movements' precise times and locations.

Additionally, it displays the time, fuel issuer, and fuel volume that was poured into a vehicle.

“We arrive first thing in the morning, complete the waybill and then we wait till the day is done,” one of the conductors operating the Chitungwiza route said.

“Sometimes we are provided fuel sufficient for one or two trips only to maintain ‘fake’ presence in the market.”

According to sources, private bus and kombi operators receive the equivalent of US$280 and US$95 respectively per day or the equivalent in local currency.

Zupco has a fleet of 818 private kombis and 1 121 buses overall.

Out of this fleet's total of buses, 705 are operated by independent contractors hired by the company.

This indicates that on average, the government spends about US$2,5 million each month and US$28,2 million annually, or US$275 110 every day on Zupco services.

The state-run bus company has been getting additional buses from private operators to supplement its fleet, but violation of contractual obligations has forced some to withdraw their fleet.

Zupco is having trouble maintaining its day-to-day operations and fulfilling its obligations as a result of corruption, poor management, and wrong priorities, the insiders revealed.

For instance, the National Social Security Authority (Nssa), according to sources, garnished Zupco accounts last month for failing to send monthly contributions to the pension fund.

According to sources, the bill had ballooned to an estimated $125 million.

The law mandates that each employee and his or her company pay 4,5% of their maximum insurable monthly earnings of $5 000 per month to the plan.

As a result, 9% of the cap is shared by the employee and his or her employer.

By the 10th day of the month after the one in which the payment is due, the employer must pay the contribution to Nssa.

Nssa spokesperson Tendai Mutseyekwa declined to comment on the matter citing concerns about confidentiality.

Again, it is said that the Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED) once seized a number of Zupco buses because of unpaid servicing fees.

The National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) on November 26 issued a statement suspending commuter train services due to Zupco’s failure to meet its obligations.

Government swiftly overturned the decision.

The NRZ refused to reveal how much it is owed by Zupco.

CMED MD Davison Mhaka could not be reached for comment.

Zupco management, which consists of interim CEO Everisto Madangwa, administrator Linda Samunderu and finance manager Tendai Nyamayaro is also accused of spending more money on workshops and organising fun days.

“Zupco top management is preoccupied with trivial issues like scheduling very expensive workshops and approving entertainment events like fun days, and yet the services are such a shame and unfavourable to the people,” an employee said.

After securing government funding, top management from Zupco reportedly attended workshops in Nyanga, Masvingo and Kadoma in November.

This occurred when employees were owed three to four months in outstanding salaries.

“Zupco’s priorities are not being properly defined and focused, a situation ending up gulping billions of public funds at the expense of new buses, and subsidies,” another worker said.

“The prevalent impression is that Zupco is about having depots full of parked buses, rather than providing safe, affordable and reliable transport to the nation, generally speaking.

“The Zupco board should expressly outlaw spending public funds on non-performing management.”

Zupco board chairman Quinton Kanhukamwe said he was not aware of the allegations when contacted for comment.

“It is the work of the board to make sure that we get adequate responses from the executive on such issues,” Kanhukamwe

“Our meetings are quarterly and we are yet to have our board meeting for this quarter but in-between we may have meetings to deal with specific issues.

“That’s why some of these issues have not come to the attention of the board.”

The NRZ refused to reveal how much Zupco owes it.

Since December 8, 2022, Madangwa, the Zupco interim chief executive, has not answered calls from this newspaper or replied to messages given to him via WhatsApp.

He also ignored the board chairman's order to do so.

“I actually spoke to him and directed him to talk to you,” Kanhukamwe said after The Standard complained about Madangwa’s conduct.

 “He assured me that he was going to do that because I indicated to him the importance of clarifying all those operational issues.”

Despite Zupco management’s failure to manage the current fleet, the government has allocated $6 billion through the 2023 national budget for the purchase of more buses.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa reintroduced the long abandoned Zupco buses in January 2019 as the government tried to introduce a new urban transport system.

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