The High Court has ended the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO)’s two-year long monopoly which came into effect under the Public Health (COVID -19) Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown) Order 2020.
The law, which was promulgated at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, barred private operators unless they joined the ZUPCO franchise.
The government said the regulations were aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Bulawayo High court judge Justice Evangelista Kabasa ruled that Section 4(2)(a) of the Public Health (COVID -19) Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown) Order 2020, was unlawful, irregular and invalid and set it aside.
The ruling followed an application by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) challenging the Order. The ZLHR said:
We have stripped the state-run ZUPCO of its widely despised monopoly in the transport sector by outlawing legislation which created domination for ZUPCO to provide bus and commuter omnibus transport services to passengers across Zimbabwe.
The ban on private bus and commuter omnibus operators by the government in March 2020 made ZUPCO the only approved public transport provider, thereby spawning a major transport crisis in the country.
This compelled our lawyer Josephat Tshuma, who represented Tshova Mubaiwa, a network of commuter omnibus owners operating in Bulawayo, to in October 2021 challenge the monopoly created by the government.
After hearing arguments from Tshova Mubaiwa and respondents who included health minister Constantino Chiwenga, police commissioner-general Godwin Matanga, local government minister July Moyo, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Kabasa ruled that section 4(2)(a) of the Public Health (COVID -19) Prevention, Containment and Treatment (National Lockdown) Order 2020, which provides that only ZUPCO could transport passengers, is unlawful, irregular and invalid and therefore set it aside.
Several people were in 2020 left unemployed as a result of the arbitrary ban of commuter omnibuses and their right to choose and carry out a profession of their choice as provided in section 64 of the Constitution was violated.
The ban also violated their right to administrative justice as enshrined in Section 68 of the Constitution. In representing Tshova Mubaiwa, we sought to advance the rights to administrative action and the rights to a trade of one’s choice.
The ruling, however, doesn’t change much on the ground as the government reversed the ban several months ago and allowed private operators to return to the roads, albeit, under associations, some of which are allegedly linked to ZANU PF.