SOUTHERN NEWS | Byo residents turn to commuter trains

BULAWAYO - Long suffering Zimbabweans have turned to commuter trains as the economy continues to bite beyond the reach of many.

This comes after kombi operators hiked their fares twice in a space of two months as prices continue to shoot up.

Realising the desperate situation among the daily commuters, the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) in early November chipped in, re-introducing the commuter trains particularly for those staying in high density suburbs like Cowdray Park, Luveve, Entumbane, Mpopoma, Westgate and Makhandeni among others.

The initiative has, however, shut out those staying in suburbs like Sizinda, Nketa, Nkulumane and Emganwini among others.

The commuter trains run two trips to and from the city — one in the morning and the other in the evening. The fare is pegged at 50 cents for a single ride against a dollar per trip which is being charged by kombi operators.

“The commuters have responded well and most of them are even calling for the NRZ to introduce commuter trains in other areas like Emganwini and the Cement side,” Nyasha Maravanyika, NRZ public relations manager told Southern News.

“There is also a great demand from the public in Harare where commuters are parting with as much as $3 to places like Chitungwiza and Mabvuku,” he said.

He said ever since they reintroduced the trains, they have managed to transport commuters on time without fail.

A visit to the NRZ main station yesterday morning revealed an overloaded train with standing passengers who included school pupils and college students.

Those who spoke to this publication said the train was a huge relief as a dollar per trip charged by kombis was out of reach for many.

Maravanyika bemoaned the obsolete state of the parastatal equipment saying it needs replacement.

“However, we have challenges with our equipment which is too old and we need to identify suitable coaches with suitable conditions for our commuters.

“Our mechanical workshops are working on refurbishing some of these old coaches to ensure we serve the nation in any capacity,” he said.

Maravanyika said given enough resources, they will expand the trains to other needy areas as part of easing commuter costs. At the moment, NRZ has set aside seven passenger coaches for the service.

The commuter trains were first introduced in 2005 by then Information minister Jonathan Moyo before they were abandoned as the initiative was rendered unviable in 2008 owing to hyperinflation.

Kombi operators have shown no remorse making their intentions of ripping passengers off.

Last month, Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association had to intervene by holding an urgent stakeholders meeting which brought the residents and transport operators together. This forced the operators who had increased their fares by 100 percent to drop them to 75 cents.

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Residents slam council over mayoral vehicle

BULAWAYO - Residents here have expressed their anger with the city fathers after it emerged that they had resolved to award former mayor Martin Moyo one of the mayoral cars for free or alternatively $3 000, as part of his exit package.

The move exposed council’s double standards after the local authority last year resolved not to abandon a policy where former mayors will be given the option of purchasing vehicles they used during their tenure at book value.

According to a confidential council report, Bulawayo City Council (BCC) financial director Kimpton Ndimande recommended that Moyo be given two options that of being given a Mazda BT50 for free — as it had no book value — or purchase a Chevrolet, which is also part of the mayoral fleet, for $14 732.

The Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (Bpra) said it was disappointed and disheartened by the latest move.

“Bpra believes this indicates that the city council is out of touch with reality and fails to understand the gravity of the matter pertaining economic hardships that have hit Zimbabwe and are bound to negatively affect BCC’s revenue collection,” Bpra’s spokesperson Zibusiso Dube said.

“That BCC, which complains that low revenue collection is the cause of service delivery shortfalls, seeks to virtually give away vehicles from its mayoral fleet is indicative of a lack of sincerity, poor prioritisation of issues and lack of probity in administration of Bulawayo’s financial resources.”

Bpra further noted that while they appreciate that under normal circumstances it is ordinary and indeed honourable to recognise the efforts of previous leaders, however, under the current economic conditions characterised by depleted disposable incomes, rising inflation and a strained currency, it is not a good idea to give away vehicles and then further along divert ratepayers’ hard-earned money towards purchase of new vehicles.

The city fathers have in the past clashed with residents over its priorities regarding the expenditure of ratepayers’ money.

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Youths petition Parly on birth certificates

BULAWAYO - A Gwanda-based youth civic society has petitioned Parliament after it discovered that an alarming number of children in Matabeleland South Province had no birth certificates.

The youths through the Community Youth Development Trust (CYDT) lodged its petition last week Friday through the help of Southern Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST).

Sichasisile Ndlovu, the CYDT director told this paper that  her organisation was forced to take the action after concerns by “the one-size-fits-all approach by the Registrar General’s office to access civil documentation, which ignores the peculiarities of frontier provinces such as Matabeleland South which effectively denies a significant number of children in the province to access civil records.”

She said Gwanda’s ward 4 Stanmore was most affected, according to their surveillance.

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‘Ndebele King endorsed by Sadc’

BULAWAYO - Ntabazinduna Chief Felix Nhlanhlayamangwe Ndiweni has said while government was trying to block the installation of Ndebele King Bulelani Lobengula Khumalo, they have moved to seek regional and international recognition.

“I was in Blantyre and Kenya with the king Bulelani Lobengula. He was recognised officially by the United Nations (UN) and he was also officially recognised by the African Union (AU),” Ndiweni told the Southern News.

Ndiweni said over 800 traditional leaders in the Sadc have endorsed the Ndebele Kingdom.

“We in Zimbabwe are behind, the horse has bolted already, and it is done. We may talk about little things in Zimbabwe but internationally he (Bulelani) has been recognised by the traditional leadership in Sadc, over 890 traditional leaders,” he said.

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