Reliable mass transport is crucial in enhancing the ease of doing business. Policymakers and development agents say good living conditions for citizens in terms of their social and economic well-being are crucial tenets of development.
When these tenets are properly placed, they stimulate development and create viable communities where people can live, work and have a good life.
Add that up with a good public transport system that favours the dynamics of cities, connecting people easily to work, leisure and commerce, you have a motivated and inspired nation.
It is against that background that we commend the Government’s efforts to continue injecting money and resources in the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO), as part of a litany of efforts to boost the public transport system.
The country’s public transport system is slowly shaping up following the arrival of another batch of 66 buses from China, which President Mnangagwa is expected to commission next week.
The 66 buses from China are part of the 1 000-bus order to complement 500 more from Belarus, in addition to 200 commuter omnibuses that are already on the roads.
Between April and August this year, President Mnangagwa commissioned 86 Zupco buses, as the Government continues to rebuild the public transport system.
Under the current arrangement, Zupco now boasts of more than 300 buses ferrying commuters in most urban areas, bringing relief to urban dwellers who had for long borne the brunt of steep fares.
The service by Zupco is providing people with mobility, enabling them to commute to work with ease, as well as access to various services across Zimbabwe, which had become a challenge owing to fare hikes by errant kombi operators.
Authorities behind the project deserve a pat on the back for a great initiative that mitigates transport challenges facing the nation.
Since the introduction of the Zupco mass transport system in Harare, Bulawayo and other cities, kombi operators have been forced to reduce their fares.
The rate at which people are abandoning the services of kombis and going for cheaper conventional buses shows that commuters are indeed in need of cheaper alternatives.
That gap presents the Government and the private sector with an opportunity to knit a proper and effective public transport system to service commuters across towns and cities.
The importance of an efficient mass public transport cannot be over emphasised because it improves the ease of doing business.
The world over, the incorporation of public transportation is critical as it also helps communities expand business opportunities, reduce sprawl, and creates a sense of community through transit-oriented development.
In addition, a good public transport system helps an economy to thrive, while offering several advantages to businesses and individuals, who rely on the system.
Despite the nobility of the urban transport system being implemented by the Government, it has to be guarded jealously if it is to thrive and continue servicing commuters.
This is not the first time the Government has facilitated the supply of buses to Zupco to ensure that it resumes its role at the apex of the public transport system.
History shows that previous attempts were futile because of the bus company’s failure to effectively manage its affairs and wall proof its operations against theft and mismanagement.
Zupco is littered with shells of buses that it has either failed to service or manage properly. There are already tell-tell signs of impeding problems, which can worsen if the company fails to put in place proper systems to guard against theft and mismanagement of the fleet.
Early this year, at least 100 bus conductors were fired from Zupco for theft of an undisclosed amount of funds through a ticket scam.
Although the transport utility introduced an e-ticket system called “tap-and-go”, the leakages have not been completely plugged.
In most cases, conductors falsely announce faults on tap machines, with a view to compel commuters to pay cash, which ends up in individuals’ pockets.
The introduction of a tracking system to monitor all the buses is also an important measure to plug gaps in the system.
Unlike in the previous years, where Zupco had the monopoly to transport commuters, the company can no longer rely on the goodwill of its workers, but it needs systems to guard against the neglect of the fleet, as well as theft.
It is our hope that the new lease of life extended to Zupco will be nurtured and blossom, so that the firm can re-establish itself as the force it was in the past, if not better.