Zimbabweans feel the pinch as public transport fare doubles following fuel price hike

LUXEMBOURG - MAY 29: A driver fills up the tank of his car with diesel at a fuel station on May 29, 2008 in Luxembourg city. Customers are driving up to 100 km from neighbouring countries Belgium, France and Germany to fill up their vehicles with fuel, which is much cheaper in Luxembourg due to lower taxes. (Photo by Mark Renders/Getty Images)

by Tafara Mugwara

Zimbabwe’s sole public transport provider, the Zimbabwe United Passengers Company (Zupco), last Saturday hiked urban transport fares by 100 percent barely three months after an increase by the same margin.

Bus fares were hiked from 8 Zimbabwean dollars to 16 Zimbabwean dollars (0.19 U.S. dollars), while small commuter omnibus fares were increased from 16 dollars to 32 dollars (0.38 U.S. dollars).

The latest bus fare hikes followed an increase in fuel prices by the Zimbabwe Energy Regulation Authority (ZERA).

Remedzai Muhomba, a Harare commuter, said the fresh hikes put more economic pressure on already overburden Zimbabweans.

“Getting a (U.S.) dollar is very difficult. But now the fares for buses are increasing maybe on a rate which is too high for us to make ends meet, it’s very difficult and we have to get into town to make ends meet. So it’s proving very difficult for us to use public transport. There is nothing we can do but we are feeling the pinch,” Muhomba told Xinhua.

He said while fuel and transport costs continue to increase periodically, wages have remained stagnant.

“Salaries are stagnant. Nothing has increased yet fuel prices are increasing, this and that is increasing, but what you earn at the end of the day is not increasing. It’s having a great impact on the person, as an individual thereby you need to sustain your family and it’s proving to be difficult,” he said.

Muhomba said some people have resorted to walking in order to get into the city center.

“Either you walk, or you change your routine whereby you are getting into town three times a week or two times a week than the usual way you get into town on a daily basis,” he said.

Desire Machiva said responsible authorities should have increased the rates in stages to make it easier for struggling commuters.

“I think the margin which they increased the fares is too much because they doubled the price. At least they could have increased the prices gradually, you know it’s not easy to get the money, and people who use Zupco are having challenges,” he said.

George Tichareva said although Zupco fares have gone up, they are still affordable compared to private cars, which are illegal.

“In my opinion, Zupco fares are far much better than using private cars, because private car owners are charging 1 U.S. dollar from the suburbs to the city center, or a dollar for two people,” he said.

State-run-Zupco buses and private owned buses under the Zupco franchise are the only mode of transport allowed to ferry passengers. Taxes and private-owned buses have been banned from operating since a lockdown by the government started on March 30 in a bid to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

However, due to the shortage of mass public transport some commuters are now using private cars to travel, while others have to endure long hours in queues waiting for the Zupco buses.

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