The Sunday Mail
A consortium of public transport operators, Amalgamated Bus Industries (ABI), has secured a US$35 million loan to revive two local bus manufacturing companies.
This, raises expectations that the Government will have a ready supplier of coaches to boost the mass public transport system.
The latest development comes as 100 new buses acquired by the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company are set to arrive in Durban on Thursday enroute to Harare.
The funding — secured from Chinese financiers — will be used to support vehicle assemblers AVM Africa and Quest Motor Corporation, who will in turn have the capacity to assemble 500 buses annually.
The two companies will be paid US$12 000 to assemble a single bus unit upon being supplied with assembly kits shipped from China through the facility.
The buses will ultimately cost US$75 000.
ABI has now requested the Government, through zupco, to commit to purchasing up to 60 percent of the coaches.
The Government, which plans to establish a modern mass public transport system, has already committed to begin acquiring locally assembled public service buses with a sitting capacity of at least 60 passengers starting next year.
ABI finance director Mr Kura Sibanda told The Sunday Mail that all was set for production to begin.
The consortium comprises 90 percent of local bus operators.
“We have entered into partnerships with Quest and AVM Africa after we secured a loan from our Chinese friends to import kits,” he said.
“So now we are waiting for the Government because we have submitted a proposal to them.
“The proposal is that we either directly supply zupco with buses and have an arrangement where we can run the franchise.
“Or we can sell to Government because the challenge for us is we do not have a market that can absorb the amount of buses we would like to produce yet. But we know that Government has that capacity.”
Quest Motor Corporation director Mr Tarik Adam said production would commence soon after the Government agrees to the deal.
“Yes, we have entered into that understanding (with ABI) and we are waiting for the next step,” he said.
“But we are prepared and we are ready. The infrastructure is there and we have the capacity, so we are waiting for the deal to get the greenlight for us to start.”
Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Mike Madiro said the Government was prepared to purchase the buses.
“As a matter of policy, the Government has always supported the revival of the local transport industry,” he said.
“The biggest challenge has been the high cost of production for local players to the extent that imports were seen as cheaper options.
“As such, the low local uptake has caused problems for local companies. But as Government we can absorb these buses so as to support the local industries.
“We have a programme to revive zupco, so we are going to be taking those buses and hopefully along the way they can improve their production efficiencies.”
In 2019, the Government ring-fenced the import of 100 public service buses at a reduced customs duty rate of 5 percent as an interim measure aimed at easing transport challenges.
Through that facility, public transport operators had imported 33 buses valued at US$2,5 million by October 2020.
The facility, which was extended to cover 2021, is set to be terminated on December 31, after which a deliberate policy would be taken to buy from local suppliers.
Meanwhile, zupco acting chief executive officer Mr Evaristo Madangwa said: “We are expecting a batch of 100 new buses to arrive at the Durban port on November 4.”