BY VENERANDA LANGA
LEADER of government business in Parliament and Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was yesterday grilled by opposition MPs over the economic sense of slashing Zupco bus fares to 50 cents at a time fuel prices have shot through the roof.
MDC Kadoma Central MP Muchineripi Chinyanganya asked Ziyambi to explain government policy on bailing out ailing parastatals.
“It seems government takes pride in implementing policies that bring parastatals to their knees and at the end they assume their debts at the expense of the taxpayers. Can the minister explain how government slashed Zupco fares from $1 to 50 cents, and whether they are subsidising the parastatal,” Chinyanganya asked.
Ziyambi claimed it was the norm worldwide for governments to subsidise public transport systems.
Dzivarasekwa MP Edwin Mushoriwa then asked him the logic behind slashing fares when the prices of fuel had been increased to almost $5 from $3,38 per litre.
“When the fare was $1,50, we had a manual ticketing system. The Higher Education minister Amon Murwira will explain the logic,” Ziyambi said.
Murwira, who was acting for the Local Government minister, said the Harare Institute of Technology had developed an efficient ticketing system where passengers would purchase prepaid electronic cards.
“It makes customers to refrain from carrying cash to pay for Zupco as they pay in advance, and it is efficient and according to our calculations, Zupco can actually make profit at 50 cents, or even at 30 cents. Transport in this country is overpriced and we are drawing through technology to reduce it,” he said.
But Kwekwe Central MP Masango Matambanadzo (NPF) said the minister’s statement on the card system was not satisfactory.
“People are very angry and some are now travelling on top of buses because they are the cheapest. This Zupco card system is not different from the Zesa pre-payment system because we pay for electricity in advance and yet it is not available and so what guarantee do we have that the Zupco services will be available always?” Matambanadzo queried.
Mabvuku-Tafara MP James Chidakwa then asked Ziyambi to explain the changes in the interbank exchange rate, hikes in fuel prices and prices of goods and services, which have now eroded workers’ salaries.
“I have spoken to Energy minister Fortune Chasi and he is preparing a ministerial statement on the fuel sector and how government is tackling leakages and he will present it in Parliament tomorrow (today),” Ziyambi said.
“The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe used to give foreign currency at 1:1 rate, but some of them (fuel traders) diverted it, and instead of purchasing, for example, 10 million litres, they would only bring five million litres and there was pilferage and we cannot continue giving them money.”