By Fani Mapfumo
ZIMBABWE’S bus sector is poisoned for rebirth after the country’s oldest conventional bus manufacturing company, AVM Africa (Pvt) Ltd, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Amalgamated Bus Operators and Quest Motor Co-operation in a move that will see the assembling of buses locally for the mass public transport system.
The tripartite partnership will see Zimbabwe produce 500 buses in the first year of the project before moving on to supply the entire SADC region, said Zimbabwe Passengers Transport Organisation (ZPTO) spokesperson, Kura Sibanda, at the event’s official signing ceremony in Harare on Wednesday.
“We are implementing the programme from July 2021 to June 2022, with a minimum of 500 buses for the local market; then going forward, we will be looking at regional markets,” Sibanda said.
He further said the move was a major one for Zimbabwe as it was poised to become only the second country in the region to assemble buses after South Africa.
“As you might know, in SADC (outside South Africa) it is only Zimbabwe that has companies that are capable of assembling buses. So, we are looking at Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (as our potential clientele base),” Sibanda said.
Speaking at the same occasion, the chairperson of Zimbabwe Passengers Transport Organisation (ZPTO) Sam Nhanhanga said the bus manufacturing and assembly entity would witness a local reduction in the use of forex to import buses by at least 20 percent.
“This will reduce the demand for foreign currency needs by at least 20 percent, thereby lessening the burden on the fiscus,” Nhanhanga said.
He further said the move would resuscitate local industries and create more jobs directly and indirectly, in the process help move with the government’s 2030 agenda.
“Massive job creation, which is in line with vision 2030 that will also benefit downstream industries, including manufacturers of buses, glasses and tires, will manifest. It will also allow Zimbabwe to develop and create its own technology that will suit its road networks,” Nhanhanga said.
Shepherd Zvavanoda, who is working as a legal advisor in the partnership, said the assembling of Zhongtong buses would allow the government and partners operating under the Zimbabwe Passengers Company to use locally assembled buses.
“The local assembly of Zhongtong 57 seater buses model, LCK106 for the mass transportation of passengers in Zimbabwe, will go a long way to create a viable transportation system,” Zvavanoda said.
Zvavanoda said partnership with the Amalgamated Bus Operators would allow for the cheaper importation of bus kits while AVM Africa and Quest Motors would assemble the buses at their respective plants.
Government outlawed the use of privately owned commuter omnibuses on urban routes in a bid to restore sanity in the public transport system.
State-run Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) became the sole provider of urban public transport.
However, the Zupco fleet cannot meet the high demand, and has been operating with buses sourced from the private sector players under its franchise.