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Outcry over commuter omnibus phase-out

The government’s plan to ban kombis and raise the minimum age requirement for public transport drivers to 35 years from the current 25 years, has sparked heated debate with some people accusing the government of having misguided priorities.

By MUSA DUBE

The minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development Obert Mpofu last week said government was working on a raft of changes to address the challenges besetting the transport industry.

He said some of the challenges affecting the transport system was traffic congestion in cities like Harare and phasing out kombis was necessary in order to decongest the cities.

According to the minister, the measures, contained in the National Transport Policy, will be implemented over the next two years. Under the new arrangement, high-volume buses operated by a limited number of private players will replace commuter omnibuses.

The new system, said the minister, would significantly reduce bus fares and largely affect commuter omnibuses with a carrying capacity of less than 26.

One such operator, Metro Buses, has already been commissioned to participate in a pilot project of the new system. Minister Mpofu said the review of public transport drivers’ ages was a response to a spate of accidents which often involved young drivers.

However in an interview in Bulawayo last week, the Zimbabwe Passengers Association (ZPA) secretary general Paul Makiwa disagreed with the approach that the government was taking in addressing the transport sector challenges.

He said the government was addressing the symptoms of the problem instead of dealing with the real problem. He claimed that 60% of the accidents were caused by government’s failure to follow the Road Traffic Act.

“You will find that at the Vehicle Inspection Department [VID], a kombi which is supposed to carry 15 passengers is licensed to carry 18 passengers,” said Makiwa.

He said shifting the minimum age requirement for public transport drivers to 35 years from the current 25 years was not the panacea to the high accident rate in the country.

“The age changes will not have any effect. There are going to be high accidents as long as real problems are not addressed. A 15-seater should carry 15 passengers to avoid overloading. Most of the accidents are caused by overloading,” said the ZPA official.

He said most of the kombis that minister Mpofu wanted phased out were doing a great job in transporting people to areas that are shunned by buses.

“These kombis are the ones that are operating in the rural areas. We have places that have gone 20 years without buses plying there. Many bus operators are not willing to go to those areas because of a poor road network,” said Makiwa.

Makiwa said the minister should instead spend his energy fixing the roads that are in a deplorable state.

“He should address the problem of the road network first before he starts phasing out the kombis. If he addresses the challenges of poor roads, it would result in more buses coming and the kombis would phase themselves out,” he said.

A kombi operator, Trynos Langa, echoed the same sentiments saying the move was going to affect their business. He said 90% of the kombi drivers were below 30 and if they were banned from driving, it would cause serious challenges.

“About 90% of the kombi drivers are below the age of 35. Where do you want them to work if the age limit is reviewed upwards? Where should they go?” queried Langa.

However, some women in Bulawayo welcomed the move to have more mature people drive the kombis as the behaviour of the young drivers left a lot to be desired.

“The behaviour of these young kombi drivers and their conductors is bad. They don’t have respect for passengers especially women. We will be happy if we have mature people driving these kombis,” said Sheila Ncube.

She added that the move would probably be the solution to the high rate of accidents on the country’s roads.

Reports say close to 2 000 people die in accidents annually, with most accidents linked to human error.

6 Responses to Outcry over commuter omnibus phase-out

  1. Cris Samaz June 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm #

    Kombis are a menace on the roads. They smaller ones must be phased out, they should sit 3 people per row and conductors should be removed. They are a nuisance.

    • QTrne9412 June 19, 2014 at 8:28 am #

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  2. TanakaHonest June 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    I support kombi phaseout. The government should do research and make sure that the new system is reliable.

  3. emmanuel June 15, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    There is no need to reinvent the wheel. United used to run an efficient bus system before the government introduced these kombis they now want to ban. The white government had numerous faults, but there are many very good things about management we could learn from their era, including how to run municipalities, the two pronged secondary education system (which we are going to reintroduce after realizing that not everyone is academically gifted), having a small efficient cabinet etc.

  4. jeff June 15, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    No problem in decongesting the cities by banning the kombis. However there should not be restrictions if anyone wants to invest in this business and comply to set standards. The problem comes when this is only a priviledge of ZANU cronies with everyone else not being allowed to invest in this sector. Those currently running kombi businesses should be allowed to invest in these buses too as long as they meet the required standards.

  5. oswald June 16, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    i am an operator and for the minister to say so ,i think its not fair for us ,we have managed to carry your workers over a long period and you only realize that we are bad now, the ministry have failed the public transport system and we have managed to excel,you have failed NRZ,ZUPCO,AIR ZIM but us commuter operators have blossomed,remember we are the ones who have bought the police BMW because of the fines we pay ,we contribute to ZIMRA etc ,so don’t undermine our roles in the society ,instead call us to the table to see how best we can improve on our services than to entertain chancers who now want to be in transport because there is a crisis ,where were they all along ,we are equal partners cde Minister ,call us to share views,We have done well in serving the public and the ministry has failed,we also employ

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