The Sunday Mail
Debra Matabvu and Tanyaradzwa Rusike
Local bus manufacturing company AVM Africa, has been roped in to assemble 300 of the 500 buses that will be supplied from Belarus, while negotiations with Chinese investors to set up local assembly plants are also underway, it has been learnt.
The locally assembled coaches will be specifically designed for the local terrain, particularly rural areas, as Government continues to revamp the mass public transport system. The remaining 200 buses will be delivered fully assembled from Eastern Europe.
Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo said the initiative to have buses assembled in Zimbabwe will create jobs, save foreign currency and have significant positive spin-offs for the economy.
“I requested that of the 500 that are being procured, some have to be assembled here because my view was that the type of the body of the bus was not suitable for rural areas. We wanted to modify the body so that it can suit our terrain,” said Minister Moyo.
“The Belarusians then asked for the specifications of our bus assembling plants; we looked at three — Deven Engineering, AVM and another one in Mutare (Quest). So, AVM, which is still assembling buses, was the correct partner.
“The Belarusians have come here and exchanged technical plans together with our technical people, and they have agreed that some of the buses will be assembled here.”
Belarus reportedly believes it can strengthen some of the production lines at the local plant.
Technical discussions have already taken place. AVM Africa managing director Mr Jacob Kupa confirmed the deal.
“The project is due to start any time,” he said.
“We have agreed with Belarus that we assemble some of the buses locally and some parts will be made here; thus, saving foreign currency. The project is set to create massive jobs as we will be looking for coachbuilders and general workers. The project will see locally made buses that suit our taste and environment,” he said.
The project now awaits the greenlight from Treasury. Government believes that 40 percent of the materials used in manufacturing the coaches’ bodies can be sourced locally.
Chinese investors have also been engaged to assemble buses in Zimbabwe in the medium to long term. Minister Moyo said: “The Chinese are looking at if they can use completely new or use existing old plants.
“It is our desire that we assemble here because it creates jobs. It reduces the foreign currency outlay and it affords us to buy more.”
More than 1 000 buses have been acquired from China, of which 100 are expected in the country by the end of next week. Addressing rural district councillors last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said allocations of the new buses will be biased towards rural areas.
Government will also be modernising bus termini around the country, with designs presently being worked on.
“I have a meeting with prospective investors on Monday. We categorised the type of stations that we want.
“We gave them a week to work on the designs. We are asking for a number of companies like banks and pension schemes to invest at areas like Coca Cola (Graniteside), because we want to make it intra-city.
“We are doing the same in Bulawayo, and I have met with the Mayor (Councillor Solomon Madlala Mguni) and town planners,” said Minister Moyo.