Zimbabwe is generally characterized by interesting developments from time to time. If you are someone who solely covers news content you literally always have a field day. In this article, I want to look at some of the latest developments. Not too long ago we saw the banning of illegal ‘public service vehicles’ – natively known as mushika-shika. It has been commonplace for a while and the owners would be the ones to pay. Recently a new directive came into play – the ones boarding them will pay ZWL$200 fines. Anyways, I want to critically look at the latest ZUPCO and lockdown developments in Zimbabwe.

Latest ZUPCO Developments

ZUPCO recently announced that it would be partnering with NRZ to ease transport blues. Ever since the enactment of the ZWL$15000 passenger fines, hundreds of people have been fined. This ended up forcing people to settle for the ZUPCO transportation. Given how ZUPCO is obviously unable to meet demand many people have been struggling. Several people have complained that it can take them 2 to 3 hours just to board. Imagine enduring this in the morning and again at knock off-hour. So ZUPCO now ropes in NRZ; how feasible and effective is this?

For starters, the trains available are old, let alone few in light of the demand. Come to think of it, this is an initiative that can considerably serve Harare and Bulawayo only. Even in those cities trains are not really an answer. They are few, old, and some regions have vandalized railway lines due to years of dormancy. Yesterday there was actually a train that broke down on its way. This is something unsurprising when you consider that these trains were commissioned in the 1960s. Imagine the technological gap and apparent possible incompetence a train over half a century old is riddled with. Clearly, roping NRZ is a questionable intervention which certainly will not solve the transport issue. Oh and do I even have to go into how slow the trains are. So what must be done?

Possible Interventions

For starters, private vehicles owners should be allowed to ferry people. For what it is worth most of them drive to and fro work. Surely they can help a handful of people looking for transport. Over the years this has significantly helped ease transport issues. After all, the real mushika-shika vehicles move up and down hassle-free because police ask for bribes from them. To then punish private vehicle owners for ferrying passengers then becomes hypocritical.

On the ZUPCO side, some things are crystal clear. Why is it that many commuter operators are hesitant to register under ZUPCO? That tells us there is a burning issue behind the scenes. The major one is that there is an insane disconnect between the daily targets they are given and the cuts they are given from that. Additionally, they cash in their daily targets in cash but they get their cuts in RTGS$. Those two sour terms and conditions make registering under ZUPCO unprofitable. If we are to see more and more commuter operators signing up under ZUPCO, the terms and conditions must be symbiotic, not predatory.

On the other hand, the government must do more in securing more ZUPCO buses. When the ZUPCO initiative was introduced government promised they would secure thousands of buses. In 2019 they specifically indicated they would put on the road 3000 ZUPCO buses. Mind you I am not referring to outsourced ZUPCO buses or kombis here. Had that target been met and coupled with outsourced ones we should not have been having problems. Recently they said that 50 more buses are on their way – that is something but does not do much.

Latest Lockdown Developments

Lockdown has now been reviewed to level 2. Curfew has now been set to run from 10 pm to 5:30 am. Business operating hours have been shifted to between 8 am and 7 pm. Restaurants and bars within hotels and lodges can now operate between 10 am and 10 pm. Bottle stores have been given the green light to operate from 10 am to 4 pm – take-away that is. Beer outlets and nightclubs remain closed. Intercity travel is now permitted. These reviews have been welcome with relief by many but let us look at something.

Before the review, were lockdown restrictions really being adhered to? The consensus is no and law enforcement authorities must have an answer for that. Intercity travel has been happening on a grand scale – even during broad daylight. Bottle stores have been operating all this while; shebeens have more than quadrupled in number. Guess what? The most common customers at them are law enforcement officers. Businesses have of course largely adhered to operating hours but not all. In peri-urban areas, it has been business as usual even into the evening. This brings into question whether or not lockdown restrictions are meant for COVID-19 or they are just for show.

There is a disjointed, inconsistent and selective enforcement of the law in Zimbabwe. It is a serious problem and is responsible for so many vices that we are content with. I regularly travel to Harare but lately, I have not due to the ban on intercity travel. Someone literally laughed at me when I mentioned that. They did so because they themselves have been travelling to Harare several times. Overall, these recent reviews are just coming in to formalize what has been happening all this while.

In closing let me also bring your attention to another latest development. Imagine a headline reading, “Shock as pornography tops Zimbabwe’s internet data usage”. Well, this is actually a real headline that emerged from proceedings during a conference convened by ZIGF – Zimbabwe Internet Governance Forum. Some have been rubbishing it as false whilst others have said it is normal. I personally feel it is a huge problem because porn addiction has far-reaching effects. I would love to hear your sentiments on this as well. Another recent issue that emerged is paternity tests. It recently emerged that over 80 per cent of men are duped on paternity in Zimbabwe. What are your thoughts on this? Your comments are always welcome; kindly drop them in the comment section below.