No respite for struggling commuters despite Zupco revival

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By Costa Nkomo

HARARE commuters continue to bear the brunt of the country’s economic meltdown and despite government efforts to revive ailing parastatal Zupco, the situation continues to worsen with each passing day.

In interviews with on Monday, ordinary commuters in the capital said there was also growing bad blood between private commuter omnibus operators and Zupco whose threadbare fleet is being augmented by private bus operators.

A commuter who refused to be identified said the chaos at ranks in Harare has resulted in a rise in cases of theft as people jostle to get seats in subsidised buses provided by the State.

“The queues are very long and meandering. You will take a lot of time trying to get into a Zupco bus. People are losing their phones trying to board the buses; people are getting their clothes torn because they are trying to be part of the pressure to get into buses,” said the commuter.

Another Harare resident added that the sharp rise in transport costs has forced some to resign from their jobs.

“Some people have resigned from work because it is no longer sustainable to just commute to work and the costs involved for just one day are unaffordable. Some are reporting late for work and again will need to leave early so that they catch Zupco buses,” she said.

Private commuter omnibus operators across the country have increased fares by over 100% after two steep fuel increases since January.

The first at the beginning of the year triggered violent protests that left 17 people dead and dozens with gaping gunshot wounds after government unleashed the army.

Kuwadzana resident and knitter Magaret Shamhuyedova said she is now spending most of her time in bus queues in a bid to save on transport costs.

“There was bad blood between kombi touts and Zupco bus drivers some days ago and the number of buses has gone down, yet we are innocent in all this.

“These days my business has gone down. I used to make five jerseys when things were stable, but now I struggle even to make two. I work from home, so I need to come to town to buy material before going back home as early as possible. But it is not as easy as before. If I board a kombi, I would not be able to get the profit,” Shumbayedova said.

Zupco has indicated it will be taking delivery of new buses this month to add to the 25 officially handed over by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in April.

While private players are charging RTGS$3, Zupco is charging only $0.50.