Dr Obert Mpofu

Lincoln Towindo and Charlotte Musarurwa
The Government has begun the process of phasing out urban commuter omnibuses in line with comprehensive plans to decongest major cities as well as create a modern and affordable transport system. Work is also underway to reduce import duty on bicycles to encourage Zimbabweans to embrace transport modes that use road space economically.

In addition, a ring road, running around central Harare, will be constructed to detour heavy vehicles and large volumes of travellers away from the Central Business District. Several companies are reported to have already submitted bids for the ring road project, which is set to begin at the end of this year.

The measures, contained in the National Transport Policy, will be implemented over the next two years.
Under the new arrangement, high-volume buses operated by a limited number of private players will replace commuter omnibuses.
The operators, who will be identified by Government, are expected to service designated routes.

One such operator, Metro Buses, has already been commissioned to participate in a pilot project of the new system.
In essence, commuter omnibuses will suffer the same fate as the once-popular Peugeot 404s and 504s that used to ply intra-city routes.
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Dr Obert Mpofu told The Sunday Mail that traffic congestion will be among the top items on this week’s Cabinet agenda.

The new system, said the minister, will significantly reduce bus fares and largely affect commuter omnibuses with a carrying capacity of less than 26.

Over 4 550 individuals are registered as commuter omnibus owners in the capital, according to the City of Harare Department of Urban Planning report of 2012.

“As Government, we are working on a raft of measures to address the transport chaos, especially in cities such as Harare. One of the steps we will be taking will include decongesting the CBD by restricting the entrance of big vehicles,” said Dr Mpofu.

“The ring road we intend to construct will filter transport that should not enter the CBD. A number of bidders have since applied for the contract and we will let due process take its course.

“A lot of cars in the CBD are not even supposed to be there. Another method involves introducing high-volume buses which are cheaper and cost a quarter of what the kombis are charging.”

Traffic congestion in major cities, especially Harare, has caused headaches to both residents and authorities.
In the capital, the problem has been directly linked to expanding vehicle numbers, including commuter omnibuses which became the main mode of mass transport after the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company failed to cope.

It is also a result of huge traffic volumes that cut through the city centre from major trunk roads such as the Harare-Mutare-Beira; Harare-Chirundu; Harare-Nyamapanda; Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge and Harare-Bulawayo.

According to the National Transport Policy, the design of most roads in the urban areas does not conform to the rapid increase in traffic volumes.  The policy states that other road-related problems include inadequate parking spaces, lack of maintenance and room for future expansion, vandalised or lack of proper shelters and lighting at bus stops and bus termini as well as inadequate facilities for non-motorised traffic and pedestrian lanes. It also proposes that Government should develop by-passes, ring roads and truck inns in major urban areas to cater for through traffic as an alternative to radial roads that start from the CBD. The policy advocates, “Promoting the use of high capacity transport modes such as trains/articulated buses which are economic and efficiently use road space and gradually phasing out kombis and minibuses with a capacity less than 26 seats;

“Improving traffic flow and turn-around of public vehicles by preventing heavy vehicles from traversing the CBD and towing away improperly parked vehicles; promoting car sharing and segregating and conforming bus transport to selected routes/lanes to speed up traffic flow and vehicle turn around.

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  • kwengai muswe

    Destroying jobs and means of livelihood for his glory.

    Not all of us have access to the nations minerals like you did.

    Why not think about the impact of your actions have on other people’s livelihood. That is all they have.

    • Anthony

      But people are dying on our roads because of these combis. What else is he supposed to do? I say take them off the streets and decongest our CBD. While he’s at it Mpofu must ban those pirate taxis as well. But he must make sure he does it systematically and in a manner that does not leave commuters stranded. Take all those combis to new zim steel, melt them and create steel for construction. Those complaining about loss of jobs can be engaged by government/zinara to go on a nationwide campaign to repair the country’s roads and potholes. Zimbabweans are good at complaining about their situation but they don’t offer solutions to their problems.Let’s brainstorm our way out of our problems. We are too divided as a nation to move forward but its about time that changes…

      • Master

        u r not serious with your comment Antony.. be reasonable

    • str8arrow

      i think this is a policy move in the right direction which has been long overdue in zimbabwe’s big cities. granted it should not be an outright wholesale ban on the kombis as you rightly put it kwengai, because indeed a lot of people’s livelihoods will be destroyed considering the current economic dispensation which leaves people without much choice in terms of making a daily living. however, lets look at the reality on the ground, a large number of the kombis on the cities’ roads today are not road worthy and are death traps being driven by reckless inexperienced and sometimes unlicenced drivers. kukwira kombi tonaz ma1, just from the treatment from the whindis, conductors and drivers themselves to the way they recklessly weave their way through the streets and stop wherever they want without due regard to other road users. one just needs to look at the number of road traffic incidents involving kombis, some of them fatal and you realise serious decisive action has to be taken regarding the public transport sector. instead of phasing out the kombis completely a refleeting of the commuter omnibus fleets shoud be done, like the one carried out in south africa a few years back. more modern, bigger and safer vehicles should be made mandatory and the current operators should be given the priority for such a re-fleet instead of bringing back the big buses, which has been done before but did not really solve the problem. another issue to be considered as part of this policy shift has to be the creation of an oversight system to keep the policy in check and ensure the loopholes currently being used by unscrupulous operators, drivers, city council, police and vid are covered up and sanity restored into the urban transport sector…dai zvaikwanisika kuitwa muzimbabwe yanhasi nhamo iyi ye macommuter yaipera without a huge negative impact on the livelihoods of people depending on the kombis

      • Zimbabwe United

        May l know why people still choose the kombis when there are also high volume buses on our roads?

        Does it mean individual commuters do not care about their lives?

        Go on the road and see high volume buses passing by empty even with their quarter fares. Ask yourself why the same people dying in kombis still board these kombis.

        • Mangwende we Chinhoyi

          We just want the kombis and their rude Hwindis to be off our roads. They are teaching our young ones bad road behavior and how to break the law willy nilly. Zimbabwe United, keep your reasoning to yourself.

    • Jambanja paSalisbury

      No, jobs ?? This is chaotic although what they suggest may take years to implement! Zimbabwe needs much more organised mass transport systems that are cheaper, reliable and safe! We have lost too many lives with the advent of these small scale commuter omnibus operations! Some of them do not even have insurance cover for passengers, a large size of the fleet is un-roadworthy and has also caused serious congestion and noise pollution by hooting and touting for passengers! Talk of passenger trains between cities, link Hre and Chitungwiza, Marondera and Harare, Norton and Harare; Gwanda to Bulawayo,; Gweru to Bulawayo….then that’s called development!

    • rukudzo

      You are very right, and you have a point. Have you ever thought how your actions & those of your drivers affect the livelihood of many Zimbabweans who go to the grave early because of “your” bad behavior? Mpofu has my support on this.

  • junta

    mpofu is 100% correct

  • Zimbabwe United

    The policy will be implemented over 2 years but that is not the same as giving a transition period of 24 months to current commuter operators to reorganise themselves into big companies that will operate high volume public buses. The policy sadly involves government chosing companies that will be allowed to operate the high volume buses.

  • tawanda

    I am not particularly concerned with the congestion but with the carnage caused by kombis. This would be a good move to reduce the carnages

  • Black Power

    minister when you implement such a valid although drastic policy did you also give consideration to those earning a livelihood from this industry obviously there shall negatives to this policy such as the unemployment of these touts ad drivers maHWINDI havo but they are also honest tax paying citizens of this country I believe its your responsibility as the ministry and government to do something with them get them jobs or something not just throw them on the street is this the black economic empowerment you preach everyday mototi muvawanire zvekuiita bcoz what do want them to do voba here kaa kuti?

  • Simbarashe Zvineyi

    Tapinda, Tapinda, tazoita mari patown, isu vamwe tinongotenga ma26seater icho

    • Zimbabwe United

      Is Mpofu going to seleet your company as one of those favoured with operating the high volume buses?

  • Magaisa

    If you ban kombis then where is ZRP going to get money???

  • JZ

    4500 plus ominibus operators can be embraced as stakeholders in the new transport system, they can be shareholders of a transport cooperative with opportunity to form a partnership company.
    there is opportunity to train some hwindis as conductors who have a pensionable job with other employee benefits.
    some exerience kombi drivers with a good safety record can be vetted as drivers of buses.
    The new transport system must not be hijacked by vultures and money mongers but must give room to those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid to become shareholders.

  • Sinyoro

    Ndabaiwa vakomana coz I have three 25 seater Mercedes Benz minibuses which I run quite professionally and have all the relevant documents as per the law of the land. Ko ndikaverenga seat yadriver handiti mota inobva yaita 26 seater here?

  • Ndatsamwa

    This should have been done long back. Kombis are a sad story, enough is enough. Go ahead Mpofu.

  • Zimbabwe United

    The policy is creating high volume bus operators who will now be in some oligopolistic market environment? Will the Ministry succeed in influencing the maintanance of low commuter fares by these high volume few bus operators? It does not seem the Ministry was ever successful in controling the fares charged by the Kombis. This new set up that promotes collusion and cartel formation in the public transport sector will come to haunt the government.

  • dotito

    construction of a ROAD! We all know that this feat has eluded the Mugabe regime for the past 34 years. Remember, ‘dualisation of the Harare Byo Road’, dualisation of the Masvingo road, heeee a new Air port road, hee this road and that road. Some chappy will get money for the so called ring road and well, do nothing for the next donkey years

  • Munyai

    Kungotaurawo Project ye2yrs will take 10 years look at the airport road still under construction or even better the much publicised new city of Hre kombi rank in kuColcom uko stil not yet completed.

  • Rasta

    Ring road? Imimi chaivo kuvaka road? Tus something else, please!

  • Mangwende we Chinhoyi

    Earning a living out of human blood is unethical. Kombis should be banned fast. We hope their replacement is not going to take much time because people are being killed by this bloodthirsty group.

    • Master

      Mangwende how many buses have killed people?? take for example Zupco… Actually we have a greater lose of people in bus accidents than Kombis

  • uhuru

    What really surprises me is the ignorance to which most people on this fora are exhibiting. Yes I do agree that kombis hv becm a headache to this society but are we not creating a bigger headache by choosing to remove them altogether. 1st of all this so called ring road how many people is it going to employ and for how long? The big buses that are being proposed how many workers will they employ? Are we going to be guaranteed of affordable stable transport fees since by doing so we r monopolizing the industry? Are we going to be assured of accident free roads since these buses r also present in countries lyk SA but it still records 1 of the highest road fatalities in Africa. These guys that we r forcing out of employment most of them r uneducated what honestly do u think will be their next source of income? This industry supports a number of other industries what will happen to them, our olready struggling* local authorities that r heavily reliant on fees from this sector, the informal traders who have thrived as result of this. Wouldn’t it have been beta to incorporate these people in e whole policy by for example introducing mandotary training for both the drivers conductors and touts in the process creating more employment, competence tests twice a year for the driver, conductor and the vehicle etc. The truth b told this is a case of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer cos I don’t see hw the masses WL benefit from this except for the lame excuse that this will reduce road carnage

  • 1. Since when has Gvt constructed a road?
    2. Who owns Metro Buses?
    3. What happens to the kombis ema chef or mapurisa?
    4. Who will build this ring road?

    My point is this – this fat man has nothing to say except zvinhu zvisina basa. This Gvt really believes that the citizens actually care and will support their ideas/policies ivo vasina basa nesu? Come on Obert, sit back, and pat your dumbu all day. That sounds like a better thing to do than pollute our media with fairy tales of ring roads.

  • MUchangwara Rinhi

    Saka u think ma Kombi operators acho wont buy ma 26 seater acho? Nxaaaa

  • master

    A big Amen to that Uhuru,, those buses will be owned by ministers and top officials kuda kudiridza dzinde rerugare nemisodzi yevamwe that is un ethical