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Letter to Advocate Jacob Mudenda

Dear Mr Speaker Sir

I hope this humble letter finds you well, the world is facing an unforgiving pandemic and it would be bad manners not to inquire on health before conversation.

The nature of your job makes time’s scarcity a sustained reality, so I will be sure to make this succinct.

I write to you as the Speaker of National Assembly, the domineering voice among lawmakers.

The constituency of public officials you lead came to people and promised to provide a listening ear when we lay our intricate pleas.

Most of them promised to be humble servants of the people, which makes you the humble servant in chief.

Forgive my digression, it was meant to give a bit of insight into why I believe you are the perfect recipient for this letter.

The reason you are being belaboured with this bit of writing is the government`s handling of the transport situation in the country during this Covid-19 pandemic.

As you may recall, when the disease came to Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a decree where he banned commuter omnibuses.

The argument was that private transporters did not have the obligation to act in the best interest of public health by not overloading or at the very least, loading to capacity.

Only ZUPCO buses were allowed to transport people at reduced capacity, the argument was that fully packed buses would provide a hotbed for infections.

The idea though noble was financially scandalous.

Buses were now plying routes collecting money less than US$1 per trip which was a far margin from breaking even, let alone imagining profits.

As a result, the money ZUPCO was remitting to bus companies became low and bus operators began (and are still in the process) of pulling their vehicles.

If a bus develops a minor mechanical fault, operators in fear of retribution from the government are withholding their vehicles.

What this means is that the ZUPCO fleet is depleting everyday yet the need remains static, Zimbabweans need to commute to their places of work.

So this has created a predicament, born out of policies that are out of tune with reality.

Without commuter omnibuses and a depleting ZUPCO fleet, moving around has been a stress.

Others have had to rely on trucks and other unsafe modes of transport, which I believe cannot be worse than thousands of commuter omnibuses that are parked gathering dust since March.

My plea is that Parliament looks into why kombis are not being allowed to operate yet there is a glaring need and ZUPCO buses are being allowed to carry to capacity.

There has been talk that there are business people in the process of setting up a monopoly in the urban mass transport business.

It would help if that is investigated and subsequently stopped if need be.

Some of these names are the same names that are causing headaches for the Public Accounts Committee as they try to understand the incredibly opaque Command Agriculture scheme.

The institution of the curfew did not help matters, people are expected out of town by 6pm yet there is not enough transport.

Over the past few days, law enforcement officers were telling people to leave town as the curfew was up, people had to walk from Harare Central Business District to Chitungwiza.

That is close to 40 kilometres on foot.

We know that Parliament by design should be alive to the realities faced by people.

It is against this background that we are writing to you seeking answers on why there is a lack of empathy on the government`s part.

Is there a reason why people should walk when there are registered commuter omnibuses that are parked?

We should make sure we guard against the use of Covid-19 as a cover for smuggling unhelpful monopolies, Zimbabwe as a country has been molested for too long.

Parliament should form a buffer for the people and resist some of these strategies which if left unchecked can result into the mortgaging of this country into the hands of a connected few.

This matter falls under the purview of two Parliamentary committees, in fact, it may be three.

So there may be a need of coordination to ensure they seamlessly seek the answers we desperately need.

These are local government, transport and health.

The government officials have to be invited to give clarity on why there is insistence on ZUPCO when it is clear that the franchise on its own cannot sustain the traffic.

As the media we have tried to find answers but to no avail, thankfully there are thankful ways of getting public officials to speak, which is through Parliament.

Zimbabwe`s system of governance is made up of the judiciary, legislature and the executive.

As the head of the legislature, this means you have direct contact with the head of the executive, President Mnangagwa.

If calling public officials to Parliament fails, maybe you can do the honours and ask him directly why people have to suffer in this manner?

Also raise to him concerns that our law enforcement is not clearly stating the criteria needed for one to move around, it appears they are winging it.

There is no clear cut communication on who is allowed to work and who is not, in some cases police officers are violating the statutory instruments that are governing the lockdown.

Perhaps you should also seek audience with the police boss and understand the reason behind the enforcement adventurism we are witnessing.

I would have gone into details on the above matters but I made an earlier promise to be brief which I tried by all means to stick to.

Thank you for your indulgence, I will be following the Hansard to see if you would have acted on the requests.

You are our last hope Mr Speaker Sir, Parliament must play its oversight role, if left alone without scrutiny, the executive will bankrupt this country.

Help us.

Sincerely

Joel Mandaza

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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