Bupta patrol car to ensure safety, compliance of its kombis The BUPTA patrol vehicle at eGodini terminus on Monday

Raymond Jaravaza

IT’S a busy day in Bulawayo. The streets are filled with people, cars, bikes and kombis – the colourful and noisy minibuses that transport thousands of passengers across the city every day.

 But not all kombis are created equal. 

Some are rogue and reckless, breaking the rules and causing chaos. Others are loyal and law-abiding, following the regulations and keeping the peace. These are the kombis of Bupta, the Bulawayo Urban Public Transporters’ Association.

Bupta is the largest of the four kombi associations in the city, and they have a secret weapon: the patrol vehicle.

 This is a special vehicle that roams the streets, keeping an eye on the conduct and performance of the Bupta drivers, conductors and rank marshals. 

The patrol vehicle also helps them to comply with the Bulawayo City Council (BCC)’s instructions on where to pick up and drop off passengers, as well as the re-opening of Egodini terminus, which has been undergoing renovations for years.

Bulawayo City Council (BCC)

The Saturday Chronicle had the privilege of joining Bupta chairman Morgan Msipa on one of his patrol rounds along Luveve Road, where he shared some of the thrilling and hilarious stories of his adventures as the kombi patrol.

 From chasing down rogue kombis to handing over wanted vehicles to the police, from rescuing stranded passengers to rewarding exemplary service, from dealing with drunk drivers to mediating disputes, Msipa has seen it all.

“The kombi industry is notorious for wayward behaviour by some commuter omnibus crews who disregard traffic laws, speed away when stopped by traffic police, harass passengers, and drink alcohol on duty among other ills. How does Bupta deal with such behaviour by its members?


“We have a good working relationship with the police and we have asked them not to pursue a Bupta registered vehicle, which when stopped breaking the law or is not road worthy, speeds off because that puts the lives of passengers in danger when the kombi driver and the police engage in high-speed chases. 

“We encourage the police officers to note down a number that starts with the letter F written on the front and back of the vehicle and simply notify us. 

“If that vehicle is wanted by the police, we will track it down using our database in the office, impound the vehicle and gladly hand it over to the police together with the driver so that the law can take its course. 

“We have handed so many of our vehicles to the police and that arrangement is working very fine.

“We also take punitive action against drivers who drive off after being stopped by the police. For example, just last week we banned a driver from driving a Bupta registered vehicle for three months for reckless driving.

 We have also had cases where a vehicle is de-registered from Bupta for life for transgressions that put the lives of passengers in danger,” said Msipa.

Msipa also explained that each Bupta commuter omnibus has a unique number that starts with the letter F, which can be used by passengers to report any complaints or compliments about the service they receive. 

He said that Bupta values the feedback from its customers and strives to improve its standards.

“It’s easier for passengers to memorise that number, for instance, F350, compared to a vehicle license plate number, for the purposes of making a complaint against a conductor or driver and we take such complaints seriously because the welfare of passengers is our top priority. 

 “Our patrol car makes it easier for us to make sure that drivers and conductors don’t drink on the job, shortchange passengers by dropping them off before they reach their final destinations or change routes just like that. 

We had challenges in enforcing compliance before as we did not have a patrol vehicle and we are in the process of purchasing a second one to service both the eastern and western divisions. We have over 700 kombis and employ over 1 500 people so a lot of work goes into making sure that our operations run smoothly and the patrol cars are just one of the many ways to reach our goals,” he said.

The re-opening of the revamped Egodini terminus will go a long way in achieving the City Fathers’ ultimate goal of cleaning the streets of unregistered vehicles and Bupta wants to be part and parcel of that journey.

Bupta registered kombis that pick up and drop off passengers in undesignated areas will not be tolerated and members of the public should feel free to stop the patrol cars and make a report or phone the number inscribed on the vehicle, added Msipa.

The association will soon move to a new office, built from funds pooled by members, in the Belmont industrial area. There are plans to construct a fuel station that will service only Bupta registered vehicles.

For one to join Bupta, an individual must own a road-worthy vehicle as certified by the Vehicle Inspection Department (VIP), an operators’ license (a document that authorizes a vehicle to ferry passengers) and pay a once-off payment of US$150 and they will be issued with a share certificate.

“We are a membership-driven association so every member owns a part of the company when they join Bupta and will enjoy the benefits that we offer.

 We support the city council’s stance to get rid of unregistered kombis as they have no respect for by-laws and traffic laws,” he added.

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