By Tererai Karimakwenda
Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Obert Mpofu has revealed a new plan meant to reduce congestion in cities and create a “modern and affordable transport system”, but not much detail was provided in the National Transport Policy due to be implemented over the next two years.
The plan, spelled out in the state run Sunday Mail, would phase out commuter omnibuses that carry less than 26 people and replace them with high-volume buses. The number of operators licensed to service Harare would be reduced, with government deciding who gets the licenses.
More than 4,550 commuter omnibus owners were registered in the capital as of 2012, according to the Department of Urban Planning. The new plan would render thousands of drivers and conductors jobless.
A “ring road” would also be constructed around Harare, to steer heavy vehicles and travellers away from the Central Business District. The Sunday Mail said the project is set to begin at the end of this year and several companies have already submitted bids. A company called Metro Buses is also part of a pilot programme.
Elias Mudzuri, the MDC-T shadow minister for Transport, said he did not want to comment too much without knowing more details of the planned ban, but he told SW Radio Africa that a ring road was part of their “master plan” years ago when he was still mayor of Harare and proper transport services would be welcomed.
“What they should do is tame the traffic jungle in the city. There are many traffic jams because more than 40% of the people running transport have no licenses and they are connected. That’s why they continue. If those are cut out, you would soon find that transport won’t be congested,” Mudzuri explained.
“And there are small taxis which people are running because there is no employment and they need something to do. But it makes driving very difficult in the city. The alternative is not to ban but to insure that there is adequate transport.”
Responding to suggestions that the reduced number of licenses and the pending road contracts would provide opportunities for corruption, Mudzuri said the plans must be implemented without favouritism and simply on merit. Corruption he said will have to be dealt with from top to bottom and people should not condone anything that is not done according to international “best practice” standards.
The Sunday Mail quoted Transport Minister Mpofu as saying that traffic congestion “will be among the top items on this week’s Cabinet agenda”.
But as the ZANU PF government clearly shows it has little idea how to run an economy and provide electricity and clean water, it seems unlikely they will have a realistic plan to sort out traffic congestion.