Nduduzo Tshuma, Political Editor
RURAL communities in Matabeleland region will start benefitting from subsidised Zupco services after President Mnangagwa yesterday commissioned 76 buses with most expected to ply routes in Matabeleland North and South provinces.
The President commissioned the buses at the City Hall Car Park in Bulawayo reiterating his Government’s commitment to ease the high cost of transport.
“This fleet is expected to go a long way towards revamping our public transport delivery system and reduce the high transport costs that had become the norm in both rural and urban areas. These buses have a subsidy by Government so they will remain cheap,” said President Mnangagwa.
“This programme attests to my Government’s commitment and determination to improve the quality of life of the ordinary people in line with our vision to become a middle-income society by 2030. In this regard, we are determined to ensure that our developmental programmes leave no one behind.”
President Mnangagwa said it is the Government’s vision to have an efficient, reliable, safe and affordable transport sector.
“In line with my Government’s commitment to provide social safety nets for vulnerable groups and after the realisation that our commuting public has often fallen victim to unscrupulous operators who are charging exorbitant bus fares, we resolved to recapitalise Zupco,” he said.
President Mnangagwa said the country is going to have in excess of 1 500 buses brought from China, Belarus and South Africa.
“Some of the buses are from Belarus. Of the 500 coming from Belarus, 300, we have agreed, will come to Zimbabwe as knocked down kits to be assembled here locally to provide employment,” said the President.
He said Zupco is presently ferrying more than 300 000 commuters to various destinations per day across the nation but the number was set to increase with the delivery of more buses.
“Today we are commissioning an additional 76 buses as I speak, the delivery of the balance of the buses is ongoing, they are already over 76 because others are on the road coming.
“The majority of the buses we are commissioning today will ply the rural areas in Matabeleland North and South provinces,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said the improvement of the public transport system in the country was being complemented by the ongoing Road and Rail Rehabilitation Programme.
“These programmes must be collectively seen in the context of facilitating economic activity, industrial development, trade and access to services within our respective communities from the ward level upwards,” said President Mnangagwa.
He urged local authorities to rehabilitate and construct modern and complementary infrastructure such as bus termini, appropriate bus stops among others to ensure safety, timeliness, efficiency and convenience to the commuting public. “I equally urge the various stakeholders to adopt modern technologies to minimise leakages and optimise operations in the implementation of this programme.
“Users of these buses and commuters alike must look after them and keep them clean, ngiyalicela ma driver ukuthi lingabi lobutshapha, angikufuni lokhu. Ngicela ukuthi libambe kuhle impahla lezi, siyezwana?” said President Mnangagwa.
Acting Zupco chief executive officer Mr Evaristo Madangwa said they are offering affordable transport services in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare, Kwekwe, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Gokwe and recently in Chiredzi.
“We are set to re-open our Gwanda and Hwange depots and commence operations in those towns. These outlying depots will be our springboard for reaching out to remote rural areas,” he said.
“We have made significant progress in reopening other dormant depots like Karoi, Rusape and Kariba. The re-opening of these depots will result in total national coverage so that all Zimbabweans will benefit from this noble national programme.”
Mr Madangwa said they are on course to reach the target of 1 000 omnibuses under the Zupco franchise to complement the buses.
“We are on target to reach the target fleet size having secured 312 commuter omnibuses to date of which 80 of those omnibuses are plying Bulawayo routes. We have got 507 buses countrywide,” he said.
Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube said the buses would improve mobility in the city.
Acting Bulawayo Mayor Councillor Mlandu Ncube said the buses would contribute towards the attainment of a smart transformative city by 2020.