Harare City To Ban Kombis: Introduces New Transport System
Harare City Council says it is planning on banning all operating commuter omnibuses (Kombis) from the Central Business District and introduce a new association based registration process that seeks to decongest the city.
Harare’s business centre has become heavily congested and a menace to business operators who constantly have to deal with the haphazard and often dangerous ways of driving at the expense of Kombi drivers.
The city’s Acting Mayor, Stewart Mtizwa told a journalism workshop last week that the only way for kombis to come back into operation will be for them to be properly associated.
“Because of the economic conditions in Zimbabwe some people have gone out of their way to buy the mushikashika which they’re using now, which is the only source of their income.
“However, we are saying those issues, we are slowly phasing them out! The only sizes of buses that will be allowed, will be, maybe, for now, a kombi. What we are going to be doing is coping from what Bulawayo is doing or maybe what is done in Tanzania where you can’t use big buses in the CBD,” he said.
The Covid-19 lockdown restrictions phased out kombis while government introduced a monopoly based ZUPCO system which has become difficult to maintain is the country has all but opened.
The ZUPCO system was meant to replace kombis, which authorities had tried before but failed to implement, resulting in more chaos within the CBD.
Council and government have often accused commuter omnibus operators of creating disorder in the city hence the need for them to be phased out but that has been met with disdain.
In Bulawayo, there is a by-law that forces operators to be affiliated with any of the three associations in that city, which has helped the city to remain predominantly decongested.
“The other problem that we faced was that some of the kombis were owned by big bosses, so they were not touched. The only solution is to get all those kombis out of the town and then reregister them through their associations. So we will have full control of them,” he noted.
However, Ngoni Katsvairo, the Secretary-General of Greater Harare Commuter Omnibus Association said that the system that was introduced by the government to have kombi operators conducting business under ZUPCO has become highly unproductive as he blamed the government for milking them.
He said the only way will be to adopt the association based approach which will ensure kombis remain fully operational.
Katsvairo emphasized that there is a huge gap in the number of kombis needed and those that agreed to go under ZUPCO which has led to massive transport blues within Harare.
“In 2015 we brought the idea of having commuter omnibus operators for Harare to be affiliated with associations to replicate the scenario in Bulawayo. Successive mayors in Harare have failed to pass such a by-law.
“Following COVID-19, commuter omnibus operators were ordered to operate under ZUPCO. ZUPCO has less than 500 kombis affiliated with it down from 12 000 before the onset of COVID-19-induced lockdowns.
To avert the high demand for transport in Harare, Katsvairo said, transport service providers are using pirate transport.
“Operators affiliated with ZUPCO face challenges of delay in payment. In the end, they won’t be able to service their vehicles. Countrywide, there were 50 000 kombis. In the process, many livelihoods were affected.
“About 49 000 vehicles are parked for more than a year now (since March 2020). That’s the reason why there are transport blues in the country,” he retorted.
The other challenge, Katsvairo added, is that the arrangement with ZUPCO will see more operators making losses as the operational costs are higher than profits.
“Since the informal sector is opened, kombis must be allowed to open under a private franchise association. At present, if a kombi under ZUPCO cashes $15 000 per day, they are paid $4 000 in addition to the fuel of $4 000. The remainder of 7 000 should be channelled towards the maintenance of the vehicles but it’s not happening,” he added.
He appealed for a waiver from the government in order to realise profits and be a viable business that can create employment and generate revenue for the county.