More pain for Zimbabweans

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HARARE – Long-suffering Zimbabweans will endure more pain after commuter omnibus operators hiked their fares in response to the country’s worsening economic situation, the biting fuel shortage and the rising prices of spare parts.

Commuter omnibuses in cities and small towns are now charging between $1 and $3, where they used to charge half the new fares.

The fare increases come hard on the heels of steep price hikes by long distance bus operators during the festive season.

Zimbabwe is currently experiencing acute shortages of foreign currency which both the government and fuel companies blame for the current economic crisis.

“The fuel situation has contributed to the exorbitant fares … operators spend two days on the road and on the third day they have to queue 24 hours for fuel.

“Sometimes they are limited to 30 litres supply at the service stations, yet 40 to 50 litres are needed to operate daily.

“We hope to approach the authorities to at least set aside a few service stations to cater for public service vehicles so as to ease the transport problems,” Ngoni Katsvairo, the secretary of the Greater Harare Association of Commuter Operators (GHACO), told the Daily News yesterday.

Commuters who live within a radius of 20 kilometres from the capital city’s central business district (CBD) are now expected to pay between $1,50 and $2 — depending on the hour of the day.

Those from Chitungwiza and Norton respectively now have to pay between $2,50 and $3.

Apart from fuel shortages, Katsvairo said suppliers of spare parts were now demanding payment in United States dollars.

He said where bond notes and real time gross settlement (RTGS) payments were accepted, prices had become grossly inflated.

“The other problem is this dollarisation that has not been officialised. For example, something that was pegged at 10 bond notes is now being sold at US$8.

“What this means is that the … price of goods has become even more expensive,” Katsvairo added.

Zimbabwe has been struggling to pay foreign suppliers of fuel and other commodities due to its precarious financial position which economists say has been worsened by corruption and mismanagement.

The country requires between 120 million and 140 million litres of fuel every month, with diesel making up for the bulk of fuel used by industry.

According to the government, Zimbabwe now requires on average US$100 million per month to cater for its fuel imports.

The country is currently in the throes of a mega economic crisis which has resulted in shortages of basic consumer goods and medicines.

The government is also struggling to end the doctors’ strike which has crippled services within the failing public health sector.

The State’s recent ill-advised decision to fire 500 striking doctors — on the back of a court ruling which deemed their industrial action illegal — has seen provincial medical officers (PMOs) joining their colleagues in solidarity, leaving hospitals in the lurch.