There is no public transport system to talk about in Harare. The plight of commuters continued to escalate after the now defunct Zimbabwe Stage Carriage Organization Trust (ZSCOT), a membership organization created to represent the interests of commuter omnibus operators, lost steam and folded up du

e to frustrations encountered in trying to secure government recognition of the critical role that commuter omnibus operators play in alleviating transport blues in the city. The Trust had made strides in training commuter omnibus operators in collaboration with the then Canada-General Training Facility. The Trust then submitted proposals to government for a country-wide transformation and reform in the quality of public transport offered in the cities. The proposed improvements embraced a wide range of issues including streamlining the commuter omnibus industry, driver training and certification, discipline, passenger welfare and safety, viability strategies, capital development, insurance and risk. The Trust also wanted to see to it that upgrading of commuter mini bus parking, rank infrastructure, better road planning and traffic supervision were achieved on an accelerate rate as part of its efforts to provide a state-of-the-art public transportation system befitting Harare rather than Salisbury. The proposals were to be complemented by a detailed report of a study undertaken by local transport experts with the assistance of a French consulting team, SITRASS, commissioned by The World Bank Micro enterprises Sector, who carried out a viability assessment of private sector participation in urban public transportation. The study generated a profile of baseline indicators as a precursor to bench-marking capacity building of private players in the sector. To date, nothing has changed.
Commuter omnibus operators are now faced with an ageing fleet that’s no longer viable. The government has made no indication on how to support the operators despite the fact that the sector employs more than 45 000 people directly and indirectly. The government of Zimbabwe enterprise, ZUPCO, popularly known as “zvipiko” tried to bring in a few Chinese manufactured buses also referred to as “mazhingi zhongo”. The fleet, not fit for purpose, is crumbling down within months and under the context of poor project implementation and lack of professional management.
Formidable local empowerment consortia came in to the scene and offered to build commuter railway transport based on a built, operate and transfer (BOT) arrangement. The consortia pre-financed the enabling works of the project to the tune of a couple of billions of dollars. That investment went to waste as the project fizzled out in unclear circumstances in which the Ministry of Transport and Communications did not give the necessary approval for the BOT concession agreement to be signed and implemented on the ground. If the grapevine news network is anything to go by, it is now rumored that locals are not preferred; hence the Iranians, the Chinese and the Israeli based Beit Bridge Bulawayo Railway Company were invited to implement the railway project. These parties only gave the project a verbal nod.
Recent urban transport and road condition surveys revealed that the Harare City Council, as a faucet of the Ministry of Local Government, has abdicated its responsibility over many transportation and traffic related issues. They have failed to replace vandalized traffic lights, road signs and repair of deteriorated roads. Some suburban roads have degenerated into gravel tracks. Examples of such roads include Goodwood Close, Amwell Road, Ruwa Road and many others south of the city.
The City of Harare research, traffic and transportation unit has ceased to do its work. It used to be an excellent facility for tracking lapses in the traffic and the city has now ended up with commuter omnibuses allocated to pick up and dropping points without any regard for effective urban interface. The volume of pedestrian and vehicular traffic that pass through those ranks is far too much. The city center continues to be congested by people who have no business being there. They only pass through the town just to board buses to destinations on the opposite side of the city. There is no arrangement to level out this congestion during peak hours. If the research, traffic and transportation unit did its work, there would be no problem of this sort.
There is wanton neglect of the welfare of commuters within the city. Council has forgotten about the importance of public toilets. The squalor, dereliction and dilapidation of toilets at ranks continue to be a pain for commuters. There are insufficient toilets for the number of people who pass through the ranks. People have to scramble to get into the toilets and privacy while in the ablution facilities is at a premium. The toilets are not looked after and cleaned regularly. Maintenance is very poor resulting in a terrible stench around the place. The floors are persistently covered by water from leaking taps. The lighting ceased to work probably when Cecil John Rhodes died and there are no facilities for workers to wash hands. The ranks at the Copa Cabana, Market Square and Fourth Street are examples of the worst toilets at the city ranks.
E J Taundi
CHRA-Chairman Waterfalls Residents Association

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