By Innocent Ruwende and Abigail Mawonde
GOVERNMENT has reversed a decision by the Harare City Council to ban commuter omnibuses from the central business district (CBD), saying the hurried move was not in the interests of the commuting public. There was chaos in Harare yesterday as council sought to enforce the ban.
Commuter omnibus operators dropped passengers on the outskirts of the city, forcing them to walk long distances to their workplaces in town.
In a statement yesterday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister July Moyo said council took the decision without first providing a viable and inexpensive alternative for commuters. The minister said council’s decision was regrettable.
“Accordingly, and in full view of the decentralised function that the Harare City Council would ordinarily exercise by legislative delegation, I as the responsible Minister, hereby reverse and rescind with immediate effect the said decision and subsequent announcement by the city banning commuter omnibuses and kombis access to the Central Business District until such a time that proper and sustainable transit arrangements are put in place for workers and the travelling public.
“My directive is issued in terms of Section 134 of the Urban Councils Act (Chapter 29:15),” said Minister Moyo.
He added: “My directive has been issued in light of the fact that the council’s decision and action are not in the interest of the inhabitants of the council area and the Harare Metropolitan Province, to the extent that they hinder free travel by tourists and the general public, and injure the general national and public interest. Accordingly, I have conveyed the reversal and the rescission to the City Council in writing.”
Minister Moyo said the decision did not cover unregistered vehicles that were unlawfully engaged in commuter services like the “mushikashikas”.
It also does not condone illegal vending and money changing.
“As the responsible Minister, I apologise to all Harare residents, residents of Harare Metropolitan Province and our valued visitors for the disruptions and inconveniences already suffered. Further, I inform all residents of the Metropolitan Province that the renewal of the city’s public transport system, will be properly undertaken by Central Government. All stakeholders, including transport operators, businesses, residents and vendors, through their respective representatives, will be consulted for smooth execution,” said Minister Moyo.
He said steps towards developing a Transport Master Plan for the Harare Metropolitan Province had been undertaken.
In a statement earlier, Harare mayor councillor Bernard Manyenyeni conceded that the operation had caused unintended consequences which greatly inconvenienced commuters.
“…I have received generally negative feedback in these first 8 hours of this project. It has created many unintended outcomes and inconveniences to the general public of Harare. In particular the issue of distances from drop-off points and the additional bus shuttle costs to a hard-pressed community. We are also alive to possible resistance by kombi drivers and the general inconvenience of this planned model,” said Clr Manyenyeni,’’ Mr Manyenenyeni said.
He appeared to blame the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing for the exercise.
“We are concerned and urge the Ministry to suspend the Operation until revised or modified to remove the problems encountered so far. I urge all affected people to exercise restraint in handling any inconvenience faced so far. As the policymakers we would want to be more involved in any future plans for projects of this nature within Harare. We look forward to an immediate suspension of this exercise,” he said.
Yesterday kombis were dropping passengers at sites further away from the newly designated sites.
They were not carrying passengers from the new sites further frustrating commuters. Commuters from western suburbs were dropped at the Showground instead of the Coventry Holding Bay.
Those from Chitungwiza were dropped at Coca-Cola in Graniteside industrial area.
Transporters and commuters fumed over the hurried decision by council. Town planner and local governance expert Mr Percy Toriro said there was need to adopt proper strategies if council was to implement such a move. The Herald