The Zimbabwean government’s decision to compel all kombis operating within urban centres like Harare to be part of the state-owned transport agency may not have any impact on cross-border public transport sector.
According to the taxi industy in South Africa the taxi industry cross border trade between taxi operators in South Africa and Zimbabwe only focuses on long distance trips between the two countries.
The Zimbabwean government announced recently that it was disbanding all private owned transport services that is dominated by kombis or omnibuses as it sought to compel owners to register their businesses under the government owned transport agency – Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO).
The government is asking to control the large influx of illegal taxis in the main central business district of cities like Harare – Zimbabwean capital. Authorities, led by President Emmerson Mnangangwa , have called on all owners to register their taxis under ZUPCO)
“Inter and intra provincial and district movement remains controlled. Commuter omnibuses and kombis, unregistered taxis (mushikashika in Shona) also remain banned. Only ZUPCO buses and ZUPCO contracted commuter omnibuses with the stipulated number of passengers, and adhering to the sanitization and disinfection regulations will be permitted to operate,” said Mnangangwa.
The move by the Zimbabwean authorities is similar to the one that the South African government introduced in 2002 when it encouraged local taxi authorities to register their businesses to be part of municipality owned bus systems in different metros like Johannesburg (Rea Vaya) and Cape Town (My City) as sell as Tshwane (Areyeng).
Theo Malele, National Taxi Alliance (NTA) spokesperson said the Zimbabwean system was probably meant to be a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and hoped more would be done to address the public transport sector in that country.
“In our case it would be better if that had to come in a corporate way where we know everything is corporatized. Perhaps if we were or the government herer were to do it for local taxis it would be in a ticketing system” said Theo Malele, adding that if that was to be the case Zimbabweqn authorities would have to share their systems with their South African counterparts .
Midday Mali, provincial Santaco spokesman also said they believed the move by the local authorities was more of a response to the COVID-19 to ensure taxis operated within the regulations of COVID-19.
taxi structures locally have opted to be part of the local district integrated public transport systems dominated mainly by the bus sector with the taxi industry having a stake in the bus business sector through different associations.
“If they the Zimbabwean government is dealing with the situation in that way and expect operators to be part of a government transport agency, then that should be seen as stressing the need for offering essential services. Remember, the tracking and isolation of passengers infected is important. So we believe they are doing that in response to the pandemic,” said Mali.
Zimbabwen local government and public works minister Dr.July Moyo insisted that all private and illegal kombis would not operate independent of ZUPCO during and after the COVID-19 lockdown as there was a greater need for public transport after the country relaxed eased lockdown regulations to level 2 recently.
“So, throughout the lockdown we have said ZUPCO should operate. When we moved to level 2, we knew there would be more people requiring transportation,” said Moyo.