The Commuting public in the eastern border city was yesterday left stranded after Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) buses abandoned the daily scheduled routes to ferry Zanu Pf supporters welcoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa at Mutare Aerodrome Terminal.
The party's first secretary was in the city to commission an oxygen and solar production plant established by Verify Engineering (VE) with the aid of Indian engineers and the Harare Institute of Technology (HIT).
Despite lockdown restrictions that forbid large gatherings, scores of Mnangagwa supporters were ferried by ZUPCO buses creating serious transport challenges for the commuting public.
Efforts to get comments from Mutare ZUPCO depot manager on the crisis in the bus daily schedule were fruitless at the time of publication.
Pirate commuters could only ferry persons to Mutare Teachers College (MTC), to then hike from Sakubva into town, while private vehicles also offered temporary relief for the stranded crowds.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke-out, Government has since banned all transport operators not registered with the ZUPCO franchise, creating monopoly in the sector.
All large gatherings have since been restricted.
Movement for Democratic Change provincial spokesperson David Panganai said the development has shown that Zanu Pf was only using the Covid 19 pandemic as an excuse for avoiding by-elections since the party was gathering people.
He was also critical of the public transporter for openly serving interests of a political party, when its operations are subsidised by tax payers.
"It's no surprise that the party supporters were bussed to the aerodrome that is the way ZANU PF operates always using state resources to oil its machinery. This is a time when we are saying that we can't hold elections because of the Corona virus yet we have people gathering in numbers.
"We have a government that is detached from the people," he said.
The Passenger Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) has also called for government to end the ZUPCO monopoly as it was no longer sustainable.
The local municipality has also been running losses as the ZUPCO franchise enjoys free parking depriving the city of potential revenue.
Chairman of the Business and Investment Committee councillor Xavier Upare told 263chat that ranks which were formerly leased out to private operators are now being used by the franchise free of charge.
Upare said because they are not able to bill the parastatal already operating under a controversial subsidy model, which masks the franchise's viability challenges and inability to cope with the urban traffic.
"Our efforts to raise revenue are also failing because of the ZUPCO buses which are parking for free in the CBD where we used to bill commuter operators. So we are losing money as council because we are both charging anything in the commuter ranks.
"We have engaged a consultant to assess how we can upgrade and digitize our parking and this exercise will also inform us of the strategic direction to take as well as ascertain the real financial impact on the city coffers," he said