There is an urgent need to address the shortage of public transport that has seen workers walking to work and back. It is a fact that Zupco is overwhelmed by demand for transport hence the hundreds of commuters walking to work and back in most cities and towns.
What has worsened the situation is that the Zupco buses and kombis can only ferry a limited number of passengers at a time due to the need to maintain social distancing. Since the national lockdown which started in March, only Zupco buses and kombis are allowed to ferry commuters in cities and towns.
Many workers have now resorted to walking to work and back because Zupco cannot cope. Those who decide to wait for the buses or kombis are reporting to work late every day. Many workers in Bulawayo said they were waiting up to five hours to get a bus or kombi and as such were reporting late to work.
Those walking to work are saying that they will be tired by the time they get to work and this is adversely affecting production. Zupco has engaged the services of some private kombis to boost its fleet but it seems the buses are still too few to meet demand.
The situation is going to be worse when universities and schools open. There is therefore an urgent need to address this problem before schools open because we cannot afford a situation whereby pupils are crammed into private cars thereby exposing them to Covid-19.
It has become common to see workers jostling to board open trucks in the evening thereby exposing themselves to the pandemic. Government which has started to invest in organised public transport system by boosting the Zupco fleet, has said it plans to do away with kombis and pirate taxis in its bid to bring sanity on the urban roads.
This is a noble idea which however will take some time to come to fruition hence the need to find temporary measures to address the transport shortages. Workers cannot continue to walk to work and back as this is not only strenuous but also impacts negatively on productivity.
Workers have also said they are exposed to muggers at night as they walk home. The measures to maintain social distancing which has seen Zupco reducing the number of passengers will be rendered useless if the same passengers are at times crammed in open trucks on their way home.
We want to once again implore Government to move with speed to increase buses and kombis on the roads before universities and schools open. There might be a need to introduce special school buses proposed by Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Judith Ncube.