Zupco terminates contracts for urban buses

Blessings Chidakwa-Herald Reporter

THE Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) has initiated a process of terminating its contracts with private owners of buses plying urban routes.

The move comes as the remaining buses on contract are seen by commuters on the routes they ply as giving an important service and regulating fares by charging standard Zupco fares.

Negotiations between Zupco and transporters are underway to review the decision in the interest of both parties. 

The contracts started during the Covid-19 lockdowns on the direct intervention of President Mnangagwa to ease transport woes for urbanites and ensure that the services would follow lockdown rules.

With the ban on intercity services, many bus companies were ready and willing to move large parts of their fleet into Zupco control, and a reasonable number of kombi operators were willing to do the same to ensure they could keep running under lockdown rules.

As the lockdown was relaxed and then dropped, a lot of buses were returned to private control for normal intercity use, and almost all kombi operators wanted independence from Zupco, with many forming and joining their own associations if they wished to retain adherence to public transport rules and a high level of acceptance by the authorities.

In a letter dated February 9, and addressed to bus operators, Zupco acting chief executive Tineyi Rwasoka notified operators of the expiry of the remaining contracts.

“As you are already aware, the Zupco bus hiring contract for urban transportation between yourselves and Zupco Limited is set to expire on February 28, 2024.

“We refer to our previous correspondence, specifically our letter dated January 1, 2024, regarding the same matter. We are writing to officially inform you that we do not intend to renew the contract,” reads the letter.

“We kindly request that you provide us with any necessary information or documentation regarding the conclusion of our contractual relationship. This includes the return of any Zupco Limited property or confidential information that may be in your possession.”

Mr Rwasoka thanked operators for their support and said should the need arise for similar services in the future, Zupco would consider them as potential partners. 

Some Harare commuters who spoke to The Herald yesterday expressed concern over the termination of the Zupco contracts.

“Our greatest fear is that of overpricing once Zupco contracts with private players expire. Zupco buses have a standard fee unlike others which sometimes overcharge during peak hours,” said Mrs Anastancia Gurwe of Chitungwiza.

Another commuter who stays in the KwaBobo area in Eastview, Mr Runesu Gwafa, said the buses were reliable.

“There is a Zupco contracted bus which plies the Bobo-City Centre route which is very convenient for us. We were used to its time-table both in the morning and evening.

“If it is removed from Zupco we are not sure it will continue with its normal operations,” he said.

Manicaland bus operators chairman and coordinator of buses attached to the Zupco franchise, Mr Esau Mupfumi, yesterday confirmed receiving termination letters from Zupco.

He said they had engaged officials from the Minsitry of Finance, Economic Development and Investment Promotion who indicated that they wanted to fund the acquisition of 500 new buses. 

“We are waiting for Government guidance as the termination is neither here nor there. It appears the left hand was unaware of what the right hand was doing,” Mr Mupfumi said.

He said the Permanent Secretary for Finance, Mr George Guvamatanga, agreed to facilitate discussions between Zupco, private operators, Local Government and Finance ministries but these would have to start next week when he would be back in office.

Mr Mupfumi said he had also engaged Mutapa Investment Fund chief executive officer Dr John Mangudya who said there is no termination of contracts pending negotiations with operators.

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