Beleaguered state owned bus company, Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) has all but fallen apart due to financial dire straits that have resulted in the grounding part of its fleet of buses and workers going without pay, businessdigest has established.
Zupco which once flourished now has run down amid allegation of corruption and looting by top executives.
Sources within the organisation said the situation has ‘gone out of hand” and accused company directors of gross mismanagement. Workers at the company have not been paid their March and April salaries with only half the workforce being paid their February dues according to sources.
This is over and above outstanding wages owed to workers, running into millions, for the period between 2009 and 2010.
“This is a very bad situation,” one worker said “Just imagine how we are struggling to make ends meet especially when it comes to rentals and school fees. We are really suffering”
The bus company, they said, was hemorrhaging financially due to the purchase it made of 100 buses last year from China.
They claim that 55% of the bus company’s gross revenue is being channeled to service the monthly payments for the buses.
The money according to workers at the company is being drawn from what they called ‘The Recapitalisation Account’ to the detriment of the employees’ welfare.
So dire is the situation that last month the company made a decision to send workers on unpaid leave for three months.
Maternity leave, sources say, had also been converted into unpaid leave.
The decision was only rescinded after angry protests by workers and the intervention of the trade union for transport.
The food allowances allocated to bus drivers and conductors have been scrapped.
This, they said, has meant that they made long distance journeys to destinations such as Beitbridge, Malawi and Zambia with no money to buy food. Some of them only managed to get food due to the benevolence of the passengers, insiders said.
Workers claim that the transport company makes monthly revenue of US$3 million of which US$400 000 goes to the monthly wage bill. The workers also claim that the board was running the day to day affairs of the company which had rendered the management team ineffective.
They said they were baffled by the board’s decision to recruit more staff at a time they have gone months without pay including advertising for a company secretary in a local weekly last weekend.
“We are surprised that when we have not been paid they continue recruiting people. They are adding so many workers such that there are no offices to accommodate them”.
They added that the company’s sorry financial state was due to the fact that most of the senior positions at the transport company were being filled by managers from struggling parastatals such as Ziscosteel and Air Zimbabwe. One of the workers charged that Zupco had become “a dumping ground for managerial failures”.
Most of the company’s buses have been grounded due to financial constraints, sources revealed. Only recently has the company made efforts to put the buses back on the road. Some of the buses have been grounded due to the lack of basic requirements such as fuel and tyres, the workers said.
They said that the company still owes money to workers whom they retrenched in 2010. Some of the former employees have resorted to attaching buses to get their dues.
The Central Mechanical Equipment Department (CMED), workers said, had also made attempts to attach buses after the parastatal failed to settle a debt for diesel supplied to the company.
The move to attach the buses was put on hold when the Zupco management started negotiations for a settlement plan.
Workers said they had made several attempts to approach local government minister Igantious Chombo to tell him their grieviances but have so far not succeeded to do so.
When contacted for comment Zupco spokesman Farai Runyowa declined to comment on the goings on at the parastatal.
“We have no comment at this present time,” he said.
Zupco dire straits: a result of patronage, corruption-Moyo
ZCTU secretary-general Japhet Moyo says financial problems at Zupco is symptomatic of the abuse and mismanagement of parastatals in the country.
Several parastatals face viability problems that have seen workers going for months without pay.
These include the National Railways of Zimbabwe and national airline Air Zimbabwe.
This is not new but a manifestation of the challenges the country is going through,” Moyo said “ The mismanagement of state enterprises is not only confined to Zupco but also the NRZ among other parastatals.”
He said the poor performance of most parastatals was due to the appointment of unqualified individuals to senior managerial positions because of their party affliation as well as the scourge of corruption.
“ These problems will not go away overnight. Companies like Zupco are being siphoned to cater for galas and Zanu PF conferences and this becomes part of a bigger problem,” Moyo said. “These problems will continue as long as they are playing to the tune of the master.”
Problems at these parastatals are likely to worsen, resulting in unemployment and increased participation in the informal sector thereby further reducing the government’s weak revenue base.