Public  transport chaos!..violence, speeding putting lives in danger Long distance buses pick up travellers at undesignated pick up points in Bulawayo

Chronicle Writers 

THE country’s public transport sector, particularly on over-subscribed inter-city routes, has become increasingly chaotic and conflict-ridden as bus operators and their crews frequently engage in fierce competition tactics to secure passengers, leading to violent clashes and harassment of commuters. 

Major inter-city routes such as Bulawayo to Harare, Masvingo, Beitbridge and Victoria Falls are highly popular and, recently have seen a high volume of bus operators stampeding for passengers along the highways. 

This over-saturation creates cutthroat competition as operators compete for the limited customer base, with reckless drivers being accused of speeding while touts violently grab passengers and force them to board buses.

The confrontations between rival bus crews pose significant safety risks as passengers also find themselves caught in the crossfire of disputes, leading to potential harm and a general sense of insecurity.

Over the weekend police arrested prominent Mutare businessman and politician Isau Mupfumi along with 21 touts with law enforcement agents also hunting for one of the country’s biggest public transport operators over violent clashes in Mutare between May 23 and 24.

Police have expressed concern over the errant behaviour of bus operators, saying it is prevalent across the country as bus crews continue to violate council by-laws by picking up and dropping off passengers in undesignated places.

In Bulawayo, most inter-city bus operators have abandoned Renkini Bus Terminus in Thorngrove and resorted to using undesignated pick-up and drop-off points.

A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Renkini Bus Terminus and observed that the place was deserted and there were only a few buses plying rural routes.

An illegal bus terminus has been established along the 4th Avenue Extension near Evelyn High School dormitories. Bus operators plying the Bulawayo-Zvishavane-Masvingo, Bulawayo-Mutare and Bulawayo-Beitbridge routes are using the undesignated point.

Buses plying the Bulawayo-Harare route have turned First Avenue into a rank and the place has also attracted menacing touts who are also in the habit of harassing travellers.

The bus crews have also introduced shuttle services and move around picking up passengers before dropping them at the undesignated pick-up points. 

Long distance buses pick up travellers at undesignated pick up points in Bulawayo

Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation chairman Mr Samson Nhanhanga said: “As bus operators, we don’t condone violence and neither do we support the harassment of our customers by touts. We, however, note that most of these inter-city routes are oversubscribed and this is a major source of confusion and violence.”

Mr Nhanhanga said some operators are working without permits, and urged Government to intervene.

“Permits must not be issued before an assessment has been done because we have over-saturated some routes and left some areas with a serious shortage of transport while some operators are operating without permits,” he said. 

Bulawayo Bus Operators Association chairman Patrick Dube urged the Government to be strict in terms of licensing operators.

“We have some greedy operators operating in more than five routes and in some instances deploying several buses for a single route. This is why we are seeing these fights and the Government should intervene,” said Mr Dube. 

Former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Engineer George Mlilo said the competitive tensions are exacerbated by a lack of effective regulation and enforcement by authorities. 

“There is a procedure, which is supposed to be followed in which bus operators have to first apply for a licence to ply certain routes,” he said. 

“Officials from the Ministry of Transport have control over the issuing of these permits, and this is the point where there should be rationalisation.

“If there are already enough buses plying a certain route then there shouldn’t be an unnecessary issuance of permits for that same route. There is also a need for the buses to have designated time slots.”

Eng Mlilo said without strict oversight, bus operators are free to use aggressive tactics to outdo their rivals.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they are going to engage the relevant departments, the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development and the Ministry of Local Government and Public Works including bus operators.

“It is high time that bus operators play ball. The issue of violence and chaos is not just happening in one city, but throughout the country largely because of oversubscribed routes. We are told that some of these clashes are happening at designated ranks,” he said.

“We have since established that some bus operators want to be prioritised when picking up passengers which creates tensions among operators. Ideally, bus operators should be guided by timetables, which are supposed to be issued by relevant departments.”

Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) managing director Mr Munesu Munodawafa said they are concerned with the behaviour of some errant bus operators.

“There is a need to put a stop to that. I know that the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development through the Commission of Roads and Motoring Services is working to provide time-framed permits. 

“We hope that the process will be finalised soon and we also hope the stipulated fines will be heavy,” he said.

“Clearly when you look at the trend these buses will be competing on the road providing discomfort to passengers through speeding, blocking each other, and causing a lot of nuisance on the roads.”

Mr Munodawafa said TSCZ continues to call for police to enforce the law and protect the commuting public.

“From our end, we urge police to intensify enforcement on issues to do with speed and also ensure that there are no touts who have become a law unto themselves. We have seen the incidences of fights including the harassment of travellers, especially women,” he said.

Local Government and Public Works communication and advocacy director, Mr Gabriel Masvora said local authorities should enforce by-laws to ensure the safety of the travelling public.

“As Government, we call upon local authorities to enforce by-laws that ensure that bus operators use designated termini and also use them in an orderly manner. Local authorities must also work with the police to ensure order,” he said. — @nqotshili




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