Farirai Machivenyika and Paidamoyo Chipunza
GOVERNMENT and commuter omnibus operators met in Harare yesterday and agreed on new fares ranging between $1 and $3 depending on distance. Commuter omnibus operators had hiked fares without any justification. Some demanded as much as $6 for a trip to Chitungwiza, up from $1,50 while commuters from Mabvuku-Tafara were now forking out $4.
Addressing a Press conference in Harare yesterday, Secretary for Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said it was agreed that long-distance transport operators charge 10 cents per kilometre.
“Government has noted with concern a creeping profiteering streak by commuter omnibus operators, who are taking advantage of the disturbances in the past few days to overcharge commuters itching to go about their day-to-day activities, despite the rebate in excise duty for fuel extended to them by Government being in place,” said Mr Mangwana.
He said the new fares should provide some cushion to commuters whose incomes were already strained.
“To ameliorate the plight of the commuting public, Government today held a meeting with commuter omnibus operators, drivers and conductors, where the following prices were
agreed: Less than 10km $1, 11km to 20km $2 and for 21 km and above $3. For long distance transport, a price of 10 cents per kilometre was agreed. All peace-loving Zimbabweans are assured of safety as they conduct their day-to-day activities,” said Mr Mangwana.
Transport and Infrastructural Development Deputy Minister Fortune Chasi had earlier told a Press conference that Government had assured transport operators of security.
“We met from 8am to around 11 am and we had an amicable meeting with the various associations of both urban and long distance transporters.
“They explained their willingness to get back to work, but said they had problems in accessing fuel and also expressed concern on personal security and that of their property.
“As Government we have, through the security agents, reassured them of their personal security and that of their property,” he said.
Deputy Minister Chasi said the operators had also informed Government of the challenges that commuters were facing with the new fares.
Commuters travelling from Warren Park D, Warren Park 1 and Westlea are now paying $2 for trip to town. Those from Kuwadzana were paying up to $3 depending on the time of the day.
The same fare applies in northern suburbs like Highlands and Chisipite while for destinations like Mabvuku-Tafara and Chitungwiza the fares range from $4 to $6 depending on the time of the day.
Deputy Minister Chasi said they would continue engaging the operators to ensure they resume their service.
Apart from challenges in accessing fuel, the operators also said they were facing difficulties in buying spares as most retailers were demanding foreign currency.
Meanwhile calculations and inquiries from experts show that commuters are being ripped off through the new fares being charged by operators.
An expert who declined to be named said the $5 the operators were demanding to get to Chitungwiza was unreasonable.
“Just assuming that the distance between the city centre and Chitungwiza is 50km, one would need between five and eight litres of petrol for a one-way trip.
“If it is an 18-seater and the fare is $5, it means the operator is getting $90 per trip. If you then deduct money for fuel (which is between $26,48 and $24,88 for eight litres of petrol and diesel respectively) then you will realise that the operators are making a killing,” the expert said.
The calculations show the operators are making at least $60 per trip, meaning they can make up to $300 on five trips per day.
The expert added that even for short distances to places like Warren Park, Westlea and Belvedere, the operators were still making a killing by demanding $2 for a one-way trip.
“Most of the distances that are being charged $2 per person are less than 10 km from the city centre and require less than three litres per one way trip. For an 18-seater it means the gross earning is $36 and when you remove approximately $7 for fuel, the net earnings will be $29 per trip and if we multiply this by at least 5 trips then you realise that the operator is making at least $145 per day,” the expert added.
Writing on his Facebook page, one Cde Andrew Maimba said simple proportion showed that distances that used to cost $0,50 when petrol was at $1,39 should not cost more than $1,20 at current fuel prices.