Bus operators rip off travellers

Herald Reporters
Long distance public transport operators have more than quadrupled fares, dealing a body blow to last-minute holiday travellers desperate to mix and mingle with friends and relatives over the Christmas holiday. Many people were left stranded because they could not raise the new fares which came as the nation is facing erratic fuel supplies.

The operators claim to be sourcing fuel from the illegal black market and must pass on the cost to travellers.

The Herald observed dejected would-be travellers at Mbare Musika bus terminus yesterday who were shocked by the scale of the fare hikes.

A trip from Harare to Mhondoro (about 100km) now costs $25, up from $6. Travelling from Harare to Gokwe will now cost the passenger between $45 and $50, up from about $15 a week ago. Those travelling from Harare to Masvingo had to part with fares ranging between $35 and $40.

Our Midlands Bureau reports that public transport operators in that city are demanding fares ranging between $40 and $50 for a trip to Harare.

Those travelling from Gweru to Gokwe were also charged punitive fares. Transport operators who spoke to The Herald said they get diesel on the black market where prices are hugely inflated. They claimed 20 litres of diesel can cost up to $80 depending on the demand.

“We are forced to hike these fares due to the fuel shortages. We are relying on the black market for supplies,” said one operator.

Travellers accused public transport operators of profiteering from the current erratic supplies on the formal market.

“The fares that are being charged here are ridiculous. Someone wants to take advantage of the situation to demand $30 for a trip to go to Lower Gweru, a distance of less than 40 km from Gweru city?” said Onismus Ndlovu.

“I have cancelled the trip,” he said.

Mr Ndlovu said he intended to celebrate Christmas holidays with his family in Lower Gweru but would now have to come up with other holiday plans.

“We are five who were supposed to travel and we cannot afford the fares. We have to come up with other plans,” he said.

Another traveller, Mr Byron Nyoni, said the bus crews had no justification for the new fares.

“What I have realised is that there is lawlessness in the transport sector.

“They are doing whatever they want because there is no fixed fare. Short distances are the most expensive. Imagine I want to go to Silobela, which is about 40km outside Kwekwe, and commuter omnibus crews are charging $35. It is not normal,” said Mr Nyoni.

Ms Lorraine Goto of Gokwe said buses were charging $70 and $75 to travel to Gokwe from Gweru. “I had no choice but to leave behind my two children who wanted to accompany me to Gokwe. I paid $75 for the trip,” she said.

Mr Timothy Maromo, a bus driver with Mwenje Bus Services, blamed it on fuel shortages. “We get fuel on the black market so there is no choice but to hike the fares,” he said.

Energy and Power Development Minister Dr Joram Gumbo yesterday said he was engaging major fuel suppliers who had pledged to work round the clock to ease the fuel situation.

He urged the public to desist from hoarding fuel.

“The fuel situation remains constrained primarily due to a huge increase in fuel demand since May. As you might be aware, the country is also facing foreign currency shortages.

“I also want to appeal to the public to be economic on the use of fuel. We should be very conservative on what we do or use fuel on. The country is however not dry.Our major fuel companies have assured me that they will continue supplying fuel throughout the festive season,” he said.

Zuva Petroleum chief executive officer Mr Birthwell Gumbo, who is also the Petroleum Association of Zimbabwe chairperson, told The Herald: “We are providing our normal daily supply to the market.”

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