Innocent Ruwende Senior Reporter
Transport operators who rank at Harare’s Mbare Bus Terminus, as is the norm at this time of year, are taking advantage of the holidays to charge passengers double their usual fares.The biggest hikes are for those travelling to such places as Chiredzi, Buhera, Mutare and Gutu.

Chiredzi-bound travellers, who usually pay US$8 from Harare, are being forced to fork out up to US$15; while those travelling to Mutare from the capital are paying US$15 up from US$7.

Passengers travelling to Murambinda have also been caught in the bus fare hikes and are parting with US$10 rather than the usual US$6.
Those travelling to Masvingo were yesterday afternoon paying US$10 up from US$8 and those going to Bulawayo were paying US$20 instead of US$15.

The situation was the same at all pick-up points, including the illegal ones at the round-about near Boka Tobacco Auction Floors (Ku- Mbudzi) and Harare Exhibition Park.

Mbare Bus Terminus was a hive of activity in the morning but things calmed down as the day wore on. Zimbabwe Passenger Transport Organisation vice president Mr Regis Munhenzwa castigated “overzealous” operators for charging exorbitant fees, but said a slight increase was justified.

“We are only getting passengers for the trip to a destination, but when we return we do not get any passengers because most of the travellers are going out of the city, so it is necessary to cushion ourselves from making losses,” he said.

“The operational costs are also high considering we have to pay taxes to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and for fuel among other costs. We are actually charging below what we have agreed with Government. For example, we should be charging US$15 for a trip to Mutare, but we are sympathising with travellers because we know there is a liquidity crunch.”

Mr Munhenzwa said the agreed rate was at 0,046 cents per kilometre. But he said operators should charge reason- able fares and be alive to the fact that the country was not awash with cash.

Mr Letmore Hungwe, who plies the Harare–Mahusekwa route, said they were charging US$4 up from US$3.
“We have decided to hike fares by a dollar because we are only getting passengers from Harare and we are failing to get passengers for our return trip,” he said.

Travellers accused bus operators of taking advantage of their need to travel before Christmas to be with their families.
“This is very unfair,” said Mr Tatenda Nyararai, who was travelling to Masvingo. “They know we will pay any amount because we want to reach our destinations at all costs.”

A traveller to Mutare, Mr Stanford Dzapasi, urged the police to ensure bus operators charged the approved fares.

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