By Farai Matiashe
Fuel queues have resurfaced in Harare with commuter operators taking advantage of the situation to hike fares, while Zupco buses are fast disappearing in many suburbs of Harare, leaving thousands of commuters stranded.
Most filling stations in Harare were closed and displayed “no diesel” signs, while long and winding queues formed at the few with the commodity.
A survey conducted by NewsDay yesterday showed that commuters to suburbs such as Epworth, Waterfalls, Kambuzuma and Kuwadzana were stranded because there were few kombis to ferry them.
Kombis were taking advantage of the stranded passengers to hike fares from $1 to up to $2.
Some passengers were opting for lorries which were charging them cheaper fares, while others spent many hours waiting for the Zupco buses.
Ruby Samupindi from Kambuzuma said she was charged $1,50 to town.
“I had budgeted $1 for transport, but now things have changed. I am wondering how I will get to the month end,” Samupindi said.
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Another commuter from Epworth, Johnson Mutore, said commuting had become expensive.
“These commuter omnibus operators just charge us whatever fare they feel like at any given time. From Mbare to Epworth it is now $2 from $1,” he said.
A kombi driver, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity, said unavailability of fuel was forcing them to hike fares.
“Fuel shortages have worsened the situation. We have no choice, but to hike fares as the $1 we were charging was no longer sustainable. Most kombi operators are getting fuel on the black market whose prices are quite high,” he said.
He said most kombis were spending a lot of time in queues, while a number had grounded due to fuel shortages.
Passengers’ Association of Zimbabwe president, Tafadzwa Goliati said commuter operators should stick to fares they agreed with government.
“We have discussed with our other associations in Harare and they are saying prices have not yet officially been increased,” Goliati said, adding that operators were taking advantage of unavailability of diesel to hike fares.
“There are shortages of fuel. Kombi operators after spending hours in queues just decide to hike fares. Also even if they discover that there are a number of passengers at a bus stop they just hike fares in a bid to cover up the time they would have spent in a queue.”
But Energy and Power Development minister Joram Gumbo insisted that fuel was available despite the long queues for diesel at the few service stations with the commodity.
“Diesel is there, the queues that you are seeing are a clear sign that there is fuel. Motorists cannot just queue where there is nothing,” he said.