Public transport system overhaul long overdue

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THE country’s public transport system, which has been in a terrible state for a long time, is in urgent need
of a complete overhaul.

Some years back, the State-owned Harare United Omnibus Company (HUOC), as the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) was known then, was the pride of the nation, transporting the commuting public efficiently.

However, corruption and mismanagement weighed heavily on the State-owned firm until it gave in. Bus shells and other discarded materials litter Zupco regional depots around the country.

Yes, Zupco has been a victim of the poor corporate governance seen in other State-owned firms. The National Railways of Zimbabwe, national carrier Air Zimbabwe and the Cold Storage Company, among others, are typical examples of State enterprises that suffered heavily from corruption and mismanagement.

For a country that once prided itself as a sparkling example of efficiency manifested by HUOC soon after
independence — later transforming into the scandal ridden Zupco — the State-owned firm should change
its operational modalities. They know what should be done and do exactly that.

Some of the major weaknesses of SOEs — which are also common in Zupco — reflect in the critical shortage of resources and expertise.

If the government is failing to inject capital to buy new buses as well as maintain its existing fleet, they should allow private operators to invest in the parastatal.

A few days ago, the government hosted an SOEs review seminar with a view to improve operations in its firms so that they get back to profitability, from which organisations like Zupco must benefit.

Most of these SOEs, including Zupco, have become a burden to the fiscus, hence the urgent need for the government to reform them as they are failing to contribute towards economic growth.

This explains President Emmerson Mnangagwa’sstance that the government should work on strengthening structural, governance and administrative frameworks in State-owned entities through various strategies, which include selecting the most suitable ownership model.

If the government feels the transport firm is a strategic operation which it cannot divest from, then it has to transform and re-invent itself in order to rediscover the efficiency of the HUOC.

The commuting public wants nothing short of a reliable and efficient transport system.

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