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Minister Mhona embraces ATWUZ recommendation on suspended Rimbi, Zebra Kiss buses

Zimbabwe Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development, Honourable Felix T. Mhona

By Chris Mahove

The Minister of Transport and Infrastructural Development has advised the public that it has lifted the suspension of the licence for operation of all omnibuses belonging to Tashllyt Investments trading as Zebra Kiss.
The lifting of the suspension follows the submission of comprehensive measures that have been put in place by Tashllyt Investments to avert such incidents in the future.
In a statement today, the minister said after meticulous consideration of the submission, the Ministry is satisfied that the measures that have been mainstreamed by the Operator are adequate to checkmate the recurrence of operational behaviours which can be interpreted as violations of terms and conditions of the licence.
“The Ministry will continue to enforce and monitor compliance with the terms and conditions of all operators’ licences, including measures against reckless and negligent driving,” Minister Mhona said.

The decision comes after the Associated Transport Workers Union (ATWUZ) called on Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Felix Mhona to immediately rescind his decision to suspend the operating licenses of Rimbi and Zebra Kiss bus companies saying it rendered hundreds of their innocent members at the two companies jobless.

ATWUZ General Secretary, Leonard Mutizwa, said the initial decision by Mhona would have seen up to 400 workers, most of who were members of his union, losing their jobs adding that the minister must rescind his decision instead of trying to solve one problem by creating another much bigger problem.

On January 19, Mhona suspended the operating licenses of Rimbi Tours and Zebra Kiss buses with immediate effect after they were involved in an accident at the 160km peg along the Harare-Nyamapanda highway when the driver of the Rimbi Tours rammed into a tipper while trying to overtake a Zebra Kiss bus as they raced and blocked each other.

But Mutizwa said the Minister’s decision was irrational and was done without consulting other players in the transport industry

“While we acknowledge that the two bus crews erred, we are not happy with the decision reached by the Minister of Transport, Felix Mhona to suspend the operating licenses of the two companies because he did not consult players in the transport industry before reaching that decision. He should have approached us and asked for our opinion instead of making a unilateral decision to suspend their licenses because of the acts of just a few individuals, adversely affecting hundreds of other innocent workers at the two companies,” Mutizwa said.

He said the two companies owned large fleets of buses and employed more than 400 people whose livelihoods, including those of their families and extended families would be adversely affected when only the two offending crews should have been punished.

“Considering that these two companies have up to 200 buses in total meaning that there are more than 400 families affected by this decision because their breadwinners have been rendered jobless. We also have those working in workshops, like mechanics, and also those in the administration who will also be affected by that decision,” he said.

Mutizwa said the union was worried because the suspension was indefinite, thus workers could go for a very long period without any means of livelihood, which would leave their families and extended families exposed to hunger.

He said the decision was also against the country’s Vision 2030 which also included employment creation.

“One company has 140 of our members while the other has about 160 members, so all in all, we are saying 300 of our members have been left redundant by the Minister’s decision. We are now worried that while Vision 2030 talks of employment creation, we have people being made jobless before we even reach 2030,” he said.

Mutizwa said the Minister should have found better ways of dealing with the issue instead of imposing a blanket punishment on workers.

“So, what we are saying is very simple. We are saying to the Minister this decision you made is not acceptable to us. You should have punished the involved drivers since there are already laws in place. We have our Employment Code for the Transport Industry which disciplines errant workers at the plant level according to the Labour Act.

“We also have criminal laws which deal with offending drivers, including those involved in dangerous driving like in the case of the two drivers. These laws should have been used to deal specifically with those two drivers instead of making a decision that would affect other drivers plying different routes and observing the rules of the road,”.

Minister Mhona, however, said in a letter dated January 24 and addressed to ATWUZ and signed by the Secretary of Transport and Infrastructure Development, Engineer Chinyanga, the suspension was done in terms of the law.

“Please be informed that the suspension was done in terms of section 17 (1) (b) (i) of the Road Motor Transportation Act (Chapter 13:15). This was done in the interest of public safety, an interest also protected by the Constitution you also referred to,” he said.

Having listened to the submission, the Minister of Transport lifted the suspension on Zebra Kiss buses but Rimbi buses remain  suspended.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende