By Farai Matiashe
Hundreds of commuters in Harare were yesterday left stranded after commuter omnibus operators hiked fares in most part of the city, citing fuel shortages.
The Zimbabwe United passenger Company (Zupco) buses, which were introduced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa early this year to solve transport problems have in the past weeks disappeared from the areas they were supposed to be servicing.
From Kambuzuma to town kombis were charging $2, a rise from $1, the same with Waterfalls, while Chitungwiza was $3,50, up from $2. Mufakose to Mbare was $2 up from $1.
A kombi driver who plies the Chitungwiza-Harare route told NewsDay that kombis would hike their fares further if fuels supplies remain erratic.
“There is no diesel, at the few service stations where it is available, one can spend the entire night in the queue and still not get a full tank, which is enough to carry passengers for the better part of the day,” said the public transport operator who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“We are turning to the black market where it is very expensive. We have to raise the fares for us to make a profit. Otherwise we would be working all day without getting anything.”
Another kombi driver said the fare hikes were necessitated by fuel shortages.
“If fuel shortages worsen, we will be left with little or no option, but to hike the fares,” he said.
A survey conducted by NewsDay in Harare yesterday showed that few service stations had long meandering queues while some had no fuel at all and in most suburbs in the capital city, many kombis were not operating due to shortages of fuel.
In an interview with one of the Harare commuters, Primrose Chitiyo said she went home late trying to secure cheap transport.
“I am no longer able to cope with the situation. Yesterday (Monday) I went home around 8pm because kombis were charging $2 yet I only had a dollar. I tried to look for cheap transport, but there was none and I had to look for someone who could lend me some money after realising that I could sleep in town,” she said.
Tawanda Guze said the prices had gone beyond their reach for someone who has children commuting to school.
“We are calling for the government to address the situation urgently. This is too much for us. We are already struggling to make ends meet and the fare hikes are making us suffer more. Imagine I have pupils who would want to go to school so they can have a better future,” he said.
But Energy minister Joram Gumbo insisted that there were enough fuel supplies in the country and he attributed the shortages to lack of foreign currency.
“Let me make it clear, my job is to facilitate the importation of fuel into the country. As far as I am concerned, there is enough fuel supplies in to the country, but there are shortages of the foreign currency for service stations to buy it,” he said.