Government has okayed the return of privately-owned commuter omnibuses (kombis) under new regulations being crafted to guide the liberalisation of the urban mass public transport system.
But commuter omnibuses will only operate under accredited associations and follow strict guidelines.
Cabinet has already approved the amendment of the Urban Areas (Omnibus Services) Regulations, which will be gazetted soon.
The updated regulations would ensure strict enforcement of regulations that require an operator’s licence, certificate of fitness and route authority.
All kombis will also be required to obtain a valid rank disk from council as well as passenger and vehicle insurance before they are allowed to ferry commuters.
Local Government and Public Works Permanent Secretary Mr Zvinechimwe Churu said kombis that were not affiliated to Zupco could only start operating after the regulations were gazetted.
“Government has initiated procedures to institute the relevant subsidiary legislation and supportive operational measures to regulate the opening up of the urban transport sector to private operators,” said Mr Churu.
“Principles for the Urban Areas (Omnibus Services) Regulations 2022 were approved by Cabinet and following the preparation of a draft Statutory Instrument, the relevant checks are being finalised before the Statutory Instrument is gazetted.”
A raft of supportive operational measures will also be instituted.
“Private operators who are not registered with Zupco are expected to comply with requirements of the relevant authorities and will be mandated to operate under the new regulations to be gazetted.”
Among the requirements, he said, were an operator’s licence, certificate of fitness, route authority, rank disk, passenger and vehicle insurance, and any other documents or permits relevant to the sector.
Statutory Instrument 83 of 2020 restricted the provision of intra-city passenger transport services to vehicles owned or managed by Zupco.
However, earlier this month, President Mnangagwa announced Government’s plan to lift the suspension on private operators in response to the continued drop in Covid-19 cases and subsequent reopening of the economy.
Greater Harare Association of Commuter Omnibus Operators secretary-general Mr Ngoni Katsvairo said self-regulation in the urban transport sector was welcome.
“The fares will be determined by associations in consultation and/or after approval by Government but based on actual cost per kilometre,” he said.
“Various associations with specifically allocated routes per association (the Bulawayo way) will improve service to commuters as opposed to a mixed grill.
“We expect each accredited association with a known track record (not fly-by-nights) to be allocated a corridor to operate and service commuters using agreed standard operating procedures.”
He said associations could quickly adjust to new administrative demands.
“We expect associations to be accredited in every province. Thus for the 10 provinces, we expect between 40 and 50 associations. For example, Bulawayo has three associations, Harare can have five or six including Zupco,” he added.
“We, therefore, see no challenge there as each association will be expected to have an office and at least one administrator, and as it grows, a general manager or chief executive officer.”
Some private transport operators met in capital yesterday for an all-stakeholders conference organised by the Zimbabwe Union of Drivers and Conductors (ZUDAC).
Transport and logistics expert Mr Atkinson Munemo said organising urban transport under associations will facilitate formalisation of the sector.
“The introduction of associations will bring uniformity in the private transport sector,” said Mr Munemo.
“It engenders a sense of belonging to private players when engaging in collective bargaining as opposed to negotiating as individuals.”
Under the current Urban Areas (Omnibus Services) Regulations, the Minister (of Local Government and Public Works) may enter into an agreement with any person for the establishment and operation of an omnibus service within an urban area subject to meeting stipulated requirements.