Rains spark impromptu fare hikes

HARARE — Unscrupulous commuter omnibus operators are taking advantage of the current rains to hike fares, especially during peak hours, knowing that desperate commuters would scramble into their vehicles for fear of downpours.

BY TAWANDA MARWIZI

However, other commuters are resisting the fares preferring to while away time wandering around town until late into the evening when the charges would have been reduced.

For the past two weeks, commuters to Chitungwiza have been charged between US$1,50 and US$2 during peak hours, especially when  it’s raining.

It usually costs US$1 per person for a single trip.
Others from suburbs such as Mufakose, Glenview, Waterfalls and Budiriro fork out between US$1 and US$1,50 a trip where they usually pay US$0,50.

“It’s very unfair for us to pay a dollar to Waterfalls which is less than 10 kilometres [from town],” said Trust Mabota.

He said that it had become a trend for transport operators to increase fares every rainy season.

Mavis Kuenda said: “We have just come from the holidays and as we speak, children need money to go to school and we need rentals. Where can we get the money to pay US$2 to go to Chitungwiza?”
Some commuters now prefer to go for private vehicles which rarely increase fares.

Misheck Dongo from Chitungwiza said he preferred to board private cars from the city centre because one can negotiate the fare.
“Apart from that, it’s risky to board kombis when it is raining because most of the drivers always speed regardless of reduced visibility, slippery roads and potholes,” he said.

“Most of the drivers just want to make a quick buck at the expense of human life.”

Disgruntled commuters, who felt cheated by the increase, caused commotion in Harare’s central business district [CBD] last week.
There was confrontation between the commuters and commuter operators at a terminus along Albion Street which nearly degenerated into a fist-fight as commuters were demanding that fares to Waterfalls be reduced to US$0,50 from the US$1 they were charging.

“You need soldiers to beat you up again,” shouted one man who was among the crowd. “Those who are charging a dollar must just leave this place.”

Last year, soldiers beat up kombi drivers and touts in central Harare in revenge after their colleagues  had been beaten by touts.
This resulted in the restoration of order in the city as some rank marshals deserted their spots for some days for fear of the soldiers.

ZRP national traffic police spokesperson, Tigere Chigome said he was concerned about the unjustified fare hikes as they caused tension and fights between the public and transport operators.

“What surprises me is that fuel prices are just normal, they don’t go up because of rains but they still charge exorbitant fares to the public, which is not fair,” said Chigome.

He said they would encourage traffic officers to control the situation, which he said needed the help of the public.

New operation to weed out touts

The police have launched another operation to weed out touts and rank marshals in the CBD. The touts  are being accused of harassing commuters and shoppers as well as making “noise and inconvenience”.
Late last year, police arrested over 500 touts and rank marshals and over half of them were sent to jail or given community service sentences.

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