The Covid-19 lockdown restrictions came down hard with a swiftness that easily and effectively pushed out commuter omnibuses in a manner which authorities have tried before and failed.
Council and government have been agitating and pushing to remove the private transport players from the roads accusing them of disorder and carnage within the CBD in Harare.
— Thandekile Moyo (@Mamoxn) May 4, 2020
Previous measures taken to limit them have included restricting them to ranks outside the CBD or practically chasing and arresting those caught.
Both plans failed as the kombis proved not just resilient but cunning and reckless beyond the limits which the authorities could pursue or copy with.
In the advent of the Covid-19 lockdown however the kombis have disappeared from roads and the newly resuscitated Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) has taken over the routes.
Transport blues in #Harare #Zimbabwe as level 2 of lockdown began on Monday. #ZUPCO buses are struggling to meet the extended demand due to unavailability of #Kombis.#LockdownZim pic.twitter.com/rOQ9r4etlZ
— Lovejoy L-Jay Mtongwiza (@LJaymut10) May 4, 2020
Using a utility of private players who have engaged with ZUPCO, the state company has introduced some buses and commuter omnibuses in order to cover the wide gap but it has still failed.
However the reality on the ground shows that ZUPCO in its present form cannot sustain the volumes of commuters and even at Covid-19 Level 2 is already struggling to provide adequate transport.
Mornings are being characterised by large groups of people struggling to get transport and usually relying on private cars.
This has also been worsened by the Covid-19 stipulations that the buses should not carry passengers to capacity, with many carrying just 32 passengers at most.
At the ranks in the CBD passengers are waiting for more than 2 hours before they can get a bus.
Many commuters are resultantly already ruing the missing kombis.
“It’s unfortunate but we are already missing the kombis. They could be expensive at times but at least you knew that within 5-10 minutes you could get transport and go wherever you wanted.
“With ZUPCO it’s a different story altogether, you wait and wait”, says Patricia Chitova (39) of Warren Park.
Another commuter Ben Hlathswayo (47) said they was need for government to incorporate the kombis instead of simply ditching them since the government does not yet have capacity to service all the routes.
“Government through ZUPCO simply doesn’t have the capacity and it doesn’t work to simply remove the kombis without a sufficient replacement system”.
“The kombis have their faults but they are what we have at the moment. Government needs to incorporate them into a functioning system that will provide the service to the people”, he said.
The struggle that commuters are facing in the aftermath of government banning the movement of kombis show that the errant and reckless private transport players are still needed.
Covid-19 restrictions may have stopped kombis from the road for now but this isn’t the end of the story, the kombis will most likely return because they are still needed.