Cash shortage spoils Christmas

Abigail Mawonde Herald Correspondent
The cash shortages bedevilling the country have spoiled Christmas celebrations for some, with many people saying they are now regarding it as normal day.

A survey by The Herald in Harare’s major rural route bus termini yesterday revealed that there were a few travellers on the roads as compared to last year.

Both travellers and public transport operators were citing liquidity challenges as the main reason for the drop in numbers.

A CAG Travellers bus worker, who declined to be named citing professional reasons said: “There are a few people travelling these days as compared to the same period last year.

“On December 24 last year, the scenario was different. The buses would be full and people would be resorting to using private transport, but now it is different. We have been loading at the Harare Showgrounds bus stop for more than an hour and the bus is half-full.”

The bus worker said they were charging normal fares as per gazetted fare table, but travellers were still declining to pay the amounts charged.

“In the past, we have been charging fares lower than the gazetted figures as a measure of trying to attract customers and stay in business, but now that we are charging the real fares people are shying away,” he said.

“For instance, people are refusing to pay the gazetted $6 for Kadoma, instead negotiating for $4 to $5 which we used to charge. They are also rejecting to pay $10 for Kwekwe, negotiating for the $6 to $7 which we normally charge.”

The crew for Road Runner Tours at Mbare Musika, plying the Gokwe route, cited similar challenges.

“Cash shortages have affected business this year as compared to last year,” they said.

“We have been parked here for some time now. There is less movement of people to the rural areas and it is sad on our part.”

The bus crew said they were accepting EcoCash payments for bus fares at a flat rate, even though they were facing challenges on purchasing vehicle parts and cashing out as they would be charged extra for the transactions.

The crew for JM Tours ranked at Mbare Bus Terminus, which plied the Mhondoro route, blamed the cash crisis for affecting their business this year.

“By this date last year, people could have been stranded looking for transport to go to their rural areas, but the situation has turned around,” said one of the crew members.

“We are struggling to fill the buses and it is sad.”

The situation was the same at the Mbudzi roundabout. Touts could be seen begging passengers to board buses.

The situation was also the same with the pirate taxi operators plying the Harare-Chivhu and Harare-Mhondoro routes, which were charging a percent for travellers using plastic money.

Mrs Tsitsi Mazambara, a traveller, said she was travelling out of sacrifice.

“I will be travelling to my rural home alone since my family could not join me due to travelling costs involved,” she said.

“I just felt we should not break the norm of visiting our parents during the Christmas holiday, but at the same time I could not travel with my children.”

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