Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
THE public backlash against the Bulawayo City Council’s contentious parking management system in the city centre continues to escalate with more residents blasting council for failure to adequately consult stakeholders before implementation.
Opposition party, Zapu, yesterday also joined the fray through a petition while more residents have since resorted to signing an online petition in a bid to force the local authority to either reduce the latest parking management system fees or scrap them altogether.
The local authority, in partnership with South African company, Tendy Three Investments (TTI), launched the parking system last month, but the move has been met with rage and resistance as motorists argued the charges were exorbitant. Some questioned the benefit of the deal to Bulawayo’s development.
Vice-President Dr Constantino Chiwenga has also criticised the city’s handling of the parking tender.
Under a six-year build, operate and transfer arrangement, the local authority will receive 30 percent of revenue, while TTI will take 70 percent.
In the latest pricing model, which was reviewed yesterday, motorists are now required to pay US$1 or the equivalent in local currency at the prevailing auction rate per hour to park in the city parking bays. Initially, the price was pegged at US$1 for 30 minutes.
Announcing the climb-down in a statement on Friday evening, town clerk Mr Christopher Dube said: “The City of Bulawayo would like to advise members of the public and the motoring public that with effect from Monday, 21 March 2022, the Central Business District has been designated into a single zone of 1 hour/US$1 or at equivalent bank rate through EcoCash, POS or ZWL cash. This notification cancels the 30mins US$1 zone that was in place at the core of the city.”
Prior to the latest development, motorists were required to pay US$1 for the 30 minutes in the prime parking bays in Zone One, which stretches from Leopold Takawira Avenue to 11th Avenue and Fife Street to Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo Street and US$1 for an hour in the ordinary parking bays.
Residents have appealed for BCC to go back to the drawing board, engage the different actors in the city (motorists, civil society and business community) so as to come up with a more inclusive, equitable and economically reasonable parking fee that will not inhibit economic activity of the city.
Bulawayo United Residents Association (Bura) chairman Mr Winos Dube said although the decision to reduce the parking fees is commendable, the parking charge must be reduced further to make it affordable to residents.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (Bupra) secretary for administration Mr Thembelani Dube said this climbdown by council shows that they did not consult residents fully.
In its petition, which was handed over to the town clerk, Zapu said BCC should adopt a hybrid system of zoning and reduce the fee to US$0,50 per hour and not more than US$5 per day.
Zapu said there seem to be little information available to residents around the deal between BCC and TTI.
According to the petition, Zapu wants BCC to, within seven days, make public the identities of other companies that competed for the same tender with TTI and how the 70/30 percent partnership between council and the company was arrived at.
“We petition the city council to provide proof that is has no capacity to enforce parking even under the new partnership resulting in the need to have TTI having to employ its own staff, and whether or not the locals are prioritised when TTI is employing,” read part of the petition.
“We petition the city council to designate, design and develop cheaper and secure parking areas on the peripheries of the CBD for those who need parking for extended periods.
“They should protect parking spaces for residents who reside in the CBD and develop capacity to enforce by laws and stop punishing innocent residents through their shortcomings.”
Zapu also wants council to provide resolutions relevant to the partnership.
Mr Dube said council will respond to the petition in writing.
Bulawayo mayor, Councillor Solomon Madlala Mguni, also attracted huge backlash on his Facebook page after he posted urging residents to pay the money.
“Let’s play our part as residents. We need to ring fence this money towards roads rehabilitation in the parking management zone area,” posted Clr Mguni.
Residents reacted negatively with many saying the money did not correspond with service delivery while others said the council was out of touch with reality.
“We have politicians who are detached from reality. All you want is money from people who have no money and there is no corresponding service delivery on the opposite end,” wrote Brian Mathonsi.
Hlanganani Dube said businesses operating in the city centre were losing business because of the parking fees.
“This is too much Your Worship. These fees are killing business in and around CBD, let’s say (you) want to do shopping at OK, do some transactions at Econet Bambanani, do some transactions at ZB bank, pay some insurances at First Mutual etc this will take over three hours,” he wrote.
“What about those working around CBD is there anything exemption for them. This is unrealistic and not fair to the general public, which by the way are your bosses because they are the electorate.
“Business people around CBD are losing business because the general public can’t afford the parking fees around CBD hence, they shun that area.”
Sikwila Tapiwa wrote: “Meaning, it a working day of eight hours, one should pay US$8? (If you) multiply this by six days (it) gives US$48 and if multiply it by four weeks it comes to US$192. In a month, someone must part away with US$192 for parking only? Is this normal?”
Sibangani Masumbika said council should have done consultations first.
“It was wrong and deliberate from the beginning not to have an all-inclusive consultative process to determine how the system was going to work. Problems can’t be solved by those who deliberately create them,” he said.