Urban transit master plan

It is very difficult to discount theories and speculation that the current crackdown on mini buses is part of a greater secret plan intended to frustrate current operators to make way for new bigger buses operated by a few selfish leaders with access to public finances.

The sudden urgency and ferocity with which police have cracked down on minibuses is out of character and only makes sense in the context of a deliberate campaign to destabilize and eventually drive out the small businessmen who will make way for the better funded, operators who will deploy buses with a higher sitting capacity to ply longer routes within the city.

The plan for an urban transit system is not new. It has been floated before and several attempts were made to implement parts of the plan. In fact the original United Bus Company of Zambia (UBZ) routing, was based on a city trunking system that would take commuters across and around the city without having to change buses.

Indeed if this is the plan, we can safely say that enough routes exist and sufficient “payload” exists to support small and large buses and there is no need therefore for the being unveiled, we dare say that there is enough for everybody. There is no need to destroy smaller buses because the need for mass transportation is so vase that it will accommodate all- provided they are willing to contend with the vagaries of the market.

It will be very sad if those with money and influence will succeed in crushing the vibrant and ever growing mini bus business which was developed to ease the major transportation crisis that the nation faced in the early 90s.

Mini buses were not just a business but a symbol, resurgence and indeed a renaissance of private initiative replacing the unwieldy parastatal sector that was synonymous with the one party “participatory” democratic system.

In the infant stage many individual Zambian invested in the business with some trepidation but soon the market was flooded with the buses thereby easing the serious transport difficulties commuters were facing. For once buses were waiting for commuters unlike in the previous regime when people waited for buses for days on end.

The business was characterized by a mix in bus configuration to reflect the abilities of the various investors.

That is why it will be very unfortunate if, as it is feared, the current crackdown is mean to banish the Minibus which has served the country exceedingly well. It is true that abuses have been observed but this is true of any other business. People will always try to make shortcuts and must therefore be encouraged by deterrent measures.

However killing the industry by over policing is not the best answer.