The continued closure of the Vehicle Inspection Department (VID) is affecting thousands of aspiring drivers in the country, with the majority of them who are desperately in need of licenses now stranded, State of the Nation news has learnt.
The VID was closed on 20 March 2020 after the government enforced a lockdown to contain the spreading of coronavirus. Since then, the department has not been opened yet although other sectors are slowly returning to functionality as the country eases lockdown regulations on businesses.
Aspiring drivers who spoke to this publication said the continued closure of the department has greatly affected them. Some who had completed their driving lessons prior to the department’s closure are now wondering if they will be able to go for road tests or enrol again for lessons when operations at the VID resume.
“I had finished all my lessons by the time the lockdown was enforced in March. Now I am not sure what will happen when the restrictions are lifted. I do not know if I will be able to go straight for road tests or enrol again for lessons” said Stanley Musungwa, an aspiring driver.
Another aspiring driver, Fanuel Shiri said he was left with only four lessons to complete his driving course when operations at the VID were halted, and is no longer sure what will happen when operations resume.
“I was almost through with my lessons. I was only left with 4 lessons to finish my 30 lesson driving course. Now I do not know what will happen when business resumes at the VID, “he said.
Some aspiring drivers who are also in urgent need of licenses for their jobs are also stranded. Simbarashe Haukozi told the reporter that he received a promotion at his workplace, with his position now requiring him to have a driver’s license. But he cannot have one because of the department’s closure.
“I recently got a promotion which now requires me to have a driver’s license. But I cannot have one and I do not know when I will have it. I also know a lot of people who are facing the same problem. I hope the government will consider opening the VID so that people can get licenses” Haukonzi said.
Driving schools told this publication that they have a lot of students who are in urgent need for licenses, but are stuck due to the closure of VID department. The closure is also affecting their businesses which are no longer viable as aspiring drivers are no longer applying for courses.
Henry Samapenda of Kingdom Driving School said they have a lot of students who have been affected by the government’s reluctance to open the VID, a development which is also affecting his company as it is no longer getting clients.
“We have a lot of students who were supposed to have obtained their driver’s licenses by the time the lockdown was effected. But they have been stranded since then. We also have aspiring drivers who urgently need licenses for professional reasons who are also stuck,”
“The closure is also affecting our business as we are no longer getting clients. As driving schools we feel left in the cold by the relevant authorities especially when the President opened industry and commerce with places like saloons, vegetables markets being opened for operations,”
“We call upon the government to open the department and allow us to operate under the WHO Covid 19 prevention guidelines just like other sectors that were allowed to operate. We know and understand that the government cannot be able to give us grants or relief funds hence we call for the opening of Vehicle Inspection Department for us to sustain our families who have gone for 5 months now with no income,” said Samapenda.
Oliver Tombo of Roadwise driving school said aspiring drivers and driving schools are being heavily affected by the continued closure of VID, and appealed to the Ministry of Transport, and the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to open the department.
“We as driving schools and our clients are being affected by the continued closure of the VID. We appeal to the government through the Ministry of Transport and our regulator, Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe to consider us by opening VID for operations as it is also affecting livelihoods who survives from driving as a profession,” said Tombo.
The acting Managing Director of Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe Clifford Gobo said the country is not ready for the re-opening of the VID and driving schools as they can increase the spreading of Covid 19.
“The country is not yet ready for the VID and driving schools to resume operations as they can become hotspots for spreading the coronavirus. We understand that driving schools are calling for the government to allow them to operate. But there are no guarantees that they will be able to effect preventive measures that can limit the spread of Covid 19 between students and instructors. One instructor can spread the virus to multiple students so we do not believe that the environment is safe for them to resume operations especially now that there is a spike of new infections,” said Gobo.
Mr Gobo said the government has issued a waiver on provisional licenses that expire during this period to continue working until operations resume at VID. So aspiring drivers with expiring provisional licences will not be affected.
“I know that driving schools what to return to business, but we urge them to consider protecting the lives of people as it is more important than money. As the regulator, we forwarded their requests to resume operations to the Ministry of Transport but the government is very clear that it will not allow businesses that put people at the risk of contracting the virus to operate,” he said.