OVER 140 000 workers in the transport sector in the capital lost their jobs owing to measures put in place by the government to curtail the Covid-19 pandemic, the secretary-general of Greater Harare Commuter Omnibus Association (GHACO), Ngoni Katsvairo has said.
Katsvairo told the media recently that 49 000 kombis, each employing a driver, conductor and a tout, were banished by the government from operating in Harare as a way to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“There were 50 000 kombis in Harare, about 49 000 have been parked for more than a year now. As a result, many livelihoods were affected,” Katsvairo said.
He added that as a result of the measures GHACO members had lost US$12, 8 million since the beginning of the national lockdown in March last due to the banishment of their kombis by the government.
Katsvairo has appealed to the government to make it possible for commuter omnibus operators to earn a living legally and improve the transport situation in the city of Harare.
“A majority of people in retirement had invested their savings in commuter omnibus transport businesses.
“At present, if a kombi under Zupco cashes in $15 000 per day, they are paid $4 000 in addition to the fuel of $4 000. The remainder of $7 000 should be channelled towards the maintenance of the vehicles but it’s not happening,” Katsvairo said.
“Some are suffering silently because they cannot air out their voices and it is really sad.
“The government should also realise that the absence of kombis has worsened the transport situation in Harare, operators affiliated with Zupco face challenges of delay in payment and in the end, they won’t be able to service their vehicles.
“Following Covid-19, commuter omnibus operators were ordered to operate under Zupco. Zupco has less than 500 kombis affiliated to it down from 12 000 before the onset of Covid-19-induced lockdown,” said Katsvairo.
Katsvairo said commuter omnibus operators were weighed down by expensive licence costs imposed by the government and other costs which have forced some operators to commute illegally.
“An operator’s licence costs $10 000, after that, one goes to register the kombi as a passenger service vehicle. The white-on-red vehicle registration plates cost $6 000, the cost of replacing tyres on most of the Japanese-imported vehicles is $48 000 while fixing the suspension chews $20 000,” Katsvairo added.
Despite the ban of kombis by the government, Katsvairo claimed that some kombis owned by powerful people are still operating.
“The shocking thing is that some kombis are still operating and they pass through police roadblocks without being arrested and if they are arrested the owners will just order the police to release the vehicles.
“These people already have money to feed their families yet they deny others to do the same for their families and many are languishing in poverty because of that,” said Katsvairo.