The Zimbabwe Government, through the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, is engaging kombi operators on a possible joint venture which will see the transporters joining the Zupco franchise.
The arrangement was mooted to deal with rising transport fares in cities. According to a close source, Zupco, instructed by the ministry, reached out to leading kombi operators seeking a deal to rope them in the urban mass public transport system.
“Zupco has been reaching out to leading kombi operators, trying to convince them to accept the offer being tabled by Government. The demand for cheaper public transport is overwhelming the buses currently servicing routes, and there is need for an urgent solution, which in this case are kombis,” the source said.
ZTN can reveal that on Thursday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo met with representatives from various commuter associations to begin negotiations that could result in one of the biggest public-private partnerships ever to be entered into by the southern African country.
“The numbers are yet to be agreed upon but Government is proposing to pay kombi operators twice a month, but there is skepticism on the current inflation rates,” said the source.
On average, commuter operators in Harare are cashing ZWL$450.00 a day.
The kombi deal may bring relief to operators who have been struggling to break even after fuel prices began spiraling upwards.
Greater Harare Commuter Omnibus Operators (GHACO) Secretary General Ngoni Katsvairo told ZTN that they are not making any meaningful profits at the moment.
“We are just continuing to run because we have passengers to service, but the truth of the matter is it is no longer making business sense. During the US dollar era, we used to charge 50 cents to make thin profits. Now we are charging below that against rising operating costs. We are not even breaking even,” said Katsvairo.
Government brought back Zupco buses on the roads to alleviate poor urban commuters who rely on them for cheaper transportation.
Zupco is however being overwhelmed and the kombis can fill the gap and bring respite to commuters who are spending long hours waiting for the few subsidised buses.