PRIVATE commuter omnibus operators in Bulawayo have engaged Provincial Affairs minister Judith Ncube over harassment by traffic police.
The private operators were banned from operating by government in 2020 after it introduced a Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) urban public transport monopoly that forced them to join the franchise at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This resulted in massive job losses in the sector as some kombis totally pulled out of routes.
Private kombi operators yesterday demanded a fair playing field.
“When we say we are ready to talk, we are not saying we want to be told what to do. We mean let us come up with a plan that will be fair to everyone. We will table our demands and also hear what they require from us and discuss further so that we come up with a solution that will balance things,” one operator, who chose to be anonymous, said.
“Our problem is that the authorities want to enforce their own vision which caters for them alone. This business is a livelihood for us and it keeps our families fed. Otherwise if people lose their sources of income there will be a rise in crime.”
The private operators said they were fed up of high-speed chases with the police, with some ending in fatalities.
“Innocent lives can be lost during these chases. The other thing is that we can’t be forced to be members of the Zupco franchise. We are private business owners and we are responsible for costs incurred. Police cannot continue chasing us and cracking our vehicle windows with baton sticks. Not only has that damaged our vehicles, but it has also injured a lot of people, including the women who are vendors on nearby streets.”
Sometime in September, the provincial minister found herself in a stand-off with kombi drivers.
She was on her way to Lobengula Street for a clean-up campaign when she was caught up in a chaotic traffic jam.
Ncube confirmed that private public transport operators visited her offices, saying a way forward would be mapped out together with private operators.
“These guys are organised, they came to see me and they have formed an association. They came to meet me and updated me on how they want to operate and work in peace. The first steps have been taken to ensure that happens,” Ncube said.