Tonderai Zvimba, Showbiz Reporter
The newly introduced Zupco buses have become a remedy for many citizens as commuter omnibuses were becoming unreliable because of their extreme hiking of fares and lack of professionalism.
With the introduction of the Zupco buses, more and more people are now opting for the bus. For some, taking a bus reminds them of back in the day when this was the only mode of transport while for the younger generation, it is their first time to board Zupco buses.
I, this week hopped onto the bus to town from Pumula South in the morning. The early bird catches the worm they say and that was my motto as I walked out of the house at around 6:45AM to catch the bus.
The first bus, whose first pick up point in Pumula South is an intersection near Ashy’s Supermarket, departs at 6AM if everything goes according to plan. After that one, another one might follow around 7AM if it is not delayed. That is the one that I hoped to catch.
Upon arriving at the bus stop on a wintry morning, there was already a long queue of people waiting for the bus. This is now the order of the day for commuters in Pumula South who are trying to save as much money as they can by taking the 50c bus.
After waiting for about 15 minutes, the bus finally came and the queue was now long. It did not take long for the bus to depart. Inside, it was packed, reflecting perhaps the bus’ popularity among commuters.
A ride on a Zupco bus is not a simple matter of departure and arrival I learnt that day. After we left, the bus made several stops as it had to pick up more people along the way. Some people, taking advantage of the cheap buses perhaps, would be travelling for very short distances and this also made the journey to the CBD a stop-start affair.
As the bus continued its journey towards the CBD, picking and dropping people along the way, the number of standing passengers seemed to almost equal those who were sitting. In such a packed bus, one found themselves rubbing shoulders with people from all walks of life. The passenger on my side seemed to be heading to a far off destination and as the bus filled up, I found myself with her bag on my lap.
A female conductor was the one handing out tickets upon payment and she continuously told standing passengers to move to the back to create more space for passengers. Clearly, Zupco does not want to leave anyone behind.
With cold temperatures biting, some started complaining that the oversubscribed buses are not following their timetable. Employers, after all, do not care that buses can run late. One passenger, Isaac Sithole said: “The problem with the Zupco bus is that it does not have a fixed timetable on when it departs from the first pickup point. This makes it very difficult to know when exactly the bus arrives.
“These people need to draft a timetable for their convenience and ours so that it becomes more orderly.”
Another passenger, Shamiso Mpofu concurred and suggested that Zupco comes up with bus stops and puts signage so that people easily identify them.
“The buses are a relief to us but the problem is that they don’t have fixed pick up points and bus stops. The bus stops everywhere to pick up and drop off people and the journey ends up taking about 45 minutes to an hour from Pumula South to the CBD, a trip that should take approximately 20 to 30minutes.”
Some also suggested that the bus company needs to look for a terminus in town as pickpockets are having a field day at TM Hyper where most buses are boarded.
“In the evening when boarding the bus back home, it’ll be so packed and dark so thieves have begun pouncing on unsuspecting people. It’ll be better if the bus gets a rank where we can board in an organised manner and then that way, it’ll be less crowded I guess,” suggested Nompumelelo Dube.
While her suggestion seemed far-fetched, one Nobesuthu Moyo said Zupco must consider having separate buses for women and children.
“The other day as I tried to board the bus, men started pushing and shoving and I fell. This angered me so much and I was wondering if Zupco could consider having a separate bus for us women and young children who also will be overwhelmed.”
Others also suggested that Zupco increases its fleet in Bulawayo.
“If our area gets more buses there will be less overloading and scrambling for seats. The bus, if supported and systems put in place, is a better means of transport,” said another passenger.