Transport Minister Obert Mpofu is reportedly holdings crucial meetings with urban commuter operators in Harare today as the government starts implementing its new transport policy designed to decongest major cities and create a modern and affordable transport system.
Reports say Mpofu on Monday held a similar meeting with commuter operators in Bulawayo, where the local authority has already designed a grand plan for having a few operators that will operate in the city within the next few years.
Under the Zimbabwe National Transport Policy, crafted by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party, high-volume buses operated by a limited number of private players will replace commuter omnibuses between 2014 and 2016.
The policy stipulates that operators are set to be identified by government and would operate in designated routes. It also stipulates that the minimum age of a driver of a commercial vehicle will be at least 35 years.
Commuter omnibuses are expected to suffer the same fate as the once-popular Peugeot 404s and 504s that used to ply intra-city routes.
Mpofu says the mooted transport system will significantly reduce bus fares and largely affect commuter omnibuses with a carrying capacity of less than 26.
The Harare City Council says more than 4,500 individual operators are registered as commuter omnibus owners in the city.
Indications are that Metro Bus has already been commissioned to take part in a pilot test of the new system. At the same time, bids have been submitted for a ring road designed to decongest the Harare business district.
Critics say this system is subject to abuse by state officials believed to be eyeing some of the projects.
Kombi operators are against the idea, saying this policy is being imposed without their input. Mpofu told Studio 7’s Chris Gande that it’s not true that kombis will be banned in the country.
Harare mayor, Bernard Manyenyeni, also told Studio 7’s Blessing Zulu that he fully agrees with the new changes.
However, kombi operators are against the new policy that is being advocated by Mpofu, saying the policy is being imposed without their input.
An operator from Bulawayo, who identified himself as Lehlo Mukwena said they are going to regroup as operators and approach the minister to clarify the latest development and provisions of the transport policy.