The approval of inter-city travel resumption by the governement of Zimbabwe has served as a lease of life to the Gokwe community for socio-economic linkages.

It was a hell on earth to the Gokwe community since the banning of the public transport when the lockdown was induced in the country on the 28th of March. The banning of the public transport did not mean the suspension of activities that called for the need for a transport.

People were forced to travel more than before for different purposes. On the social sphere; they were forced to travel for the purpose of burials, sickness, marriage, cultural functions and divorce among others.

Transport itself was a source of employment to many school leavers who turned to graduate as taunts (Mahwindi) in the Gokwe bus terminus and many other growth points such as Chitekete, Nemangwe, Manoti, Masoro, Chinyenyetu, Mutora, Kana, Mutimutema, Masakadza, Bomba, Nyaje and Gwehava among others.

However, for the economic purposes, there was a need for the movement of goods and services, buying and selling, stock take, marketing and advertising, management and audit among other purposes. With public transport on mute the entire business was on halt.

Gokwe lost its connectivity with other provinces and districts that used to make Gokwe a cultural melting pot and commercial workshop.

Looking at the route to Nkayi, though a delapidated route, it Connected Gokwe with Matabeleland and brought mostly the pure Ndebele culture and goods. Businessmen from Gwelutshena, Nesigwe, Ngabayide, Mtshabi and Matheme among others cut the route and began to explore the route to Bulawayo.

A business person from Nkayi we talked to said she used to bring her unique stuff from Bulawayo and South Africa. She would purchase goods from Metro Peach, NRichards or Gain then market in nkayi.

Now I cannot afford, transporters are taking advantage and they are charging USD 10 for a journey that was previously $5, a case of sugar is now $2. This means 95% of my profit goes to transport. I can’t afford that. Bulawayo is now better. They will need us after lock down. Let them do,” she said.

During the lockdown there were no public transport and the transporters took it for their advantage to exploit the people. One of the victims was a man from Chitekete who narrated his own story with anger.

This guy (name withheld) transported people from Chitekete to Mutimutema, a journey less than 40km and charged an equivalent of USD3. ZUPCO would take you from there to Gokwe which is more than 100 km and charged an equivalent of USD2.50. Just imagine such kind of robbery! He even bought a new comb from Harare.

Even the business sector was greatly affected. Sandwiched between the private transporters and the cotton companies they also had a story to share with us. We had an encounter with a business woman from Chireya Mission.

Every Sunday we were forced to hire a comb to Harare and you had to part with USD40 to and from before considering stock. At times the stock would cost $10. Then when you try to maximize on the profit the cotton companies would put the prize control. They are giving same stuff to the farmers. Farmers would enter into their own barter trade of the goods they get from companies. So it was shooting self on the foot. Now I’m happy we now have a ZUPCO bus.

The transport crisis did not leave anyone unaffected. We met people who faced challenges in their travel. One such is a boy who identified himself as Calvin.

I was at UZ by the lockdown. I had left my girlfriend, now my wife pregnant. So I was forced to hire a car from Chitekete from one of the guys there. Transport alone cost me a calf and I had no option. Up to now I paid nothing as part of my lobola. It’s really tight guys but I had no option.

The above narration relates to a man from Mutora who gave us an account of his travel to Masvingo for the burial of his brother. He is happy now he will attend the farewell ceremony than the previous time were he had to cede five fully packed cotton bales to a neighbour to be transported.

We also had time with transport taunts (Hwindi) who also revealed to us that it was business unusual during the lockdown. Their only source of income had been doomed.

Mdhara (man) there was whistling and ululation when the first bus arrived at Chitekete. I myself load CAG Travelers Coaches but seeing ZUPCO approaching from the Gokwe side relieved all my thoughts. I’m now happy and yesterday my confidence was fuelled when I saw Season Coaches and Roadruner. I know soon I will be back kumabiko (to the party),” said one who identified himself as Mkwananzi.

These taunts were now a subject of concern among the villagers. They are associated with all sorts of evil in the society.

Women fear for their daughters and they believe we impregnate and infect their children. Men fear for their livestock. At the shops they are also not happy they regard us as potential thieves. So now we are happy, at least we are now back to the rank,” added Mkwananzi.

So the bouncing back of the transport industry relieved the Gokwe Community of the challenges they had been facing. It means a new lease of life to the Gokwe community for socio-economic linkages. Of course a few who benefited from the lockdown are crying loud.  This include those who operated as wholesalers, those licensed to operate under COVID-19 and the private transporters.

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