By Leopold Munhende
SOME Harare commuter omnibus operators are now demanding transport fares in US dollars in what could be seen as open defiance against an unpopular government decision to dump the multi-currency system in place of the local dollar.
The private operators now charge US$1 for a one-way trip from Chitungwiza to Harare with commuters from Harare CBD now asked to fork out US$0.50 for a single trip to the city’s high density suburbs.
“We are buying fuel in US dollars so it is only logical that we charge in the same currency,” said one tout only identified as Sam.
“My kombi plies the Warren Park 1 to town route which is not really strict on US dollar payments but my colleagues plying the Chitungwiza route are already demanding US$1 per person or equivalent for them to buy foreign currency on the black market at the end of their working day.
“Fares to Warren Park 1 and back have been rising everyday hence we have opted to encourage our passengers to pay US$1 per pair.”
The US dollar charges are similar to those charged during the US dollar period.
Government reintroduced subsidised transport through public transporter Zupco whose charges are way less than those charged by private operators.
However, the few buses plying the routes often find themselves too overwhelmed, leaving commuters with no other choice than to depend on private transport.
Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube scrapped the multi-currency system in an unpopular policy shift last year.
The move came at the expense of the national economy which had struck relative stability since the introduction of the US dollar, the South African rand and a basket of other major currencies that are easy to use among locals.
The chickens have since come home to roost as the Zim-dollar keeps eroding in terms of value, leaving businesses with no option but to go against government’s directive to charge goods and services in local currency.
Added Sam: “People have the US dollar, we cannot continue to pretend there is no US dollar anymore when we all know goods and services are being charged in that currency.
“Government knows the US dollar is there, that is the reason it has allowed fuel and other companies to sell in foreign currency.
“I am sure even Ncube and John Mangudya (RBZ governor) know the local currency is worthless on the streets.
“They should simply allow all of us to use it instead of forcing us to use their paper.”
Private taxi operators have for long been demanding transport fares in US dollars.