HUNDREDS of commuters travelling to the Bulawayo central business district from Cowdray Park were at the weekend left stranded after illegal commuter operators barricaded Luveve Road, protesting the government’s decision to ban private commuter omnibuses from operating.
The government banned private transporters not registered under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) from ferrying passengers in a bid to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
The protestors burnt tyres and barred Zupco buses and kombis from loading passengers in the process bringing traffic to a standstill in a protest that lasted for over an hour on Friday.
Police had to be called in to disperse the agitated crowd that mostly consisted of pirate taxis operators, popularly known as mushika-shika.
When the Daily News crew arrived at the scene, several police officers were milling around while monitoring the situation.
One of the protesters, who spoke to the Daily News, said their request was for the government to lift the ban.
“It’s never easy, all my life, the job I have known is to drive a kombi and now with this ban we are just stranded. It’s almost a year now and we are surviving through playing cat-and-mouse with the police for us to feed families. So, through this protest, we are merely trying to send a message to the authorities that we are suffering,” Nqobani Ndlovu said.
Friday’s protests followed yet another demonstration which took place a day earlier along Luveve Road where protestors also briefly blocked traffic.
The ban on private players has resulted in transport challenges in Harare and Bulawayo, with commuters calling for the government to increase the number of Zupco buses.
“Zupco cannot go it alone, there has to be competition. We are past the era of monopoly and this is what the government has created but it is not helping. Passengers have no choice but to look for alternatives. We have routes that Zupco is not servicing for example, Mbare and private vehicles have taken advantage of the void.
“Some of the Zupco buses are clearly not roadworthy, breakdowns are high and they don’t refund passengers and people will have to wait for another bus which obviously will take a long to come.
“Passengers’ rights are violated, there is no respect for time,” Passengers Association of Zimbabwe president Tafadzwa Goliati, said recently.