Thursday, September 16, 2021
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Covid-19, transport woes and road safety

 

Upenyu Chaota

At
a time when the country is recording a surge in Covid-19 positive cases and
deaths, public transport operators seem to be complacent and throwing caution
to the wind just to make the dollar while putting the lives of commuters at
risk.

When
the government announced the Covid-19 induced lock down, it came with a lot of
measures and restrictions which didn’t spare the transport sector.

Zimbabwe
United Passengers Company (ZUPCO) was given the sole right to transport
‘essential service providers’ and also those seeking medical attention.

To
board a ZUPCO kombi or bus one had to wear a mask and sanitize and this was a mandatory
measure which the public transport provider was prioritizing.

ZUPCO
was even fumigating the buses consistently during the peak days of the first
wave of the virus.

Two
passengers would share a seat against the usual four in a commuter omnibus and
this was a measure which was aimed at reducing conduct amongst passengers.

As
time progressed and the country recording fewer cases and high recovery rate,
the government was tempted to ease lock down regulations which saw the increased
numbers of commuters.

Easing
of the lock down overwhelmed ZUPCO and prompted the resurfacing of illegal
pirate kombis and taxis commonly known as mushika-shika who are always after
profit and maximize every inch of space of their vehicles.

High
recovery rates recorded saw the public transport provider and the public
forgetting about the dangers of Covid-19, failing to wear face masks and ZUPCO
operators now don’t even sanitize their passengers.

A
visit by TellZim News crew to some of the pick-up points in Masvingo revealed
that conductors and inspectors no longer bother to sanitize people or ask them
why they are not wearing masks.

The
operators themselves including the drivers are now too lazy to properly wear
their masks.

However,
with the lock down now eased to the lowest level, it is now a case of road safety
and health of the commuters which is now on the line as they are being packed in
ZUPCO buses with an excess of over 30 people standing.

When
contacted for comment, ZUPCO Masvingo Manager Wiseman Ziweni said they were
providing operators with sanitizers and called upon the public to notify
authorities when they come across those not administering sanitizers.

“We
are giving the operators sanitizers so probably they are relaxing on duty. If
you see someone who doesn’t sanitize commuters please inform us and we will
address that issue,” said Ziweni.

However,
passengers feel they are being put at risk and are demanding that every
transport operator joins an association of their own choice.

Passengers
Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) president Tafadzwa Goliati said the ZUPCO
transport system was unsustainable and called on the authorities to put in
place an open market to ease transport woes.

“ZUPCO
is overwhelmed they can’t even provide the buses which are needed to cater for
every passenger.

“What
we want is an open market where everyone uses a vehicle which they want and
that these operators register with an association of their own choice not to be
forced into ZUPCO. We have recorded so many cases of people who are being
mugged and some are even being abused in these overloaded buses which are not
even safe,” said Goliati.

The
transport situation for local routes is dire and some may end up walking while
some fight and jostle to enter a ZUPCO bus to go home after work.

In
Masvingo, residents from Victoria Ranch jostle to get into one bus which was
allocated to them as other small kombi operators refuse to ply that route due
to the state of dilapidated roads in that area.

An
open space opposite to Glow Petroleum service station is a hive of activity after
working hours when men and women from Victoria Ranch tussle for transport.

The
transport blues always leave women vulnerable since they are overpowered by men
and some of them end up walking long distances home.

On
these instances, the public forgets about the deadly Covid-19 and it is this
kind of setup where people can transmit the virus to each other.

Local
cases are being recorded daily and the effects of loosening the lock down are
being felt with some already calling for a tighter lock down, ZUPCO to increase
their fleet and also for the enforcement of preventive measures in public
transport. 

The
government is sticking to its stance of ZUPCO being the only licensed public
transport provider in local routes and that anyone who wants to offer service should
register with ZUPCO first.

Safety
of passengers is being trivialized and one can imagine what will happen to
passengers boarding an overloaded ZUPCO bus with over 100 passengers.

The
public transport system needs to be carefully monitored so that the Covid-19
regulations are properly enforced.

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2 COMMENTS

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