By Idah Mhetu
SOME Harare commuters got a rude shock Thursday after discovering that kombi fares had been hiked 150 percent as they tried to return home after work.
At the 4th street bus terminus commuter omnibus operators plying the Epworth and Chitungwiza routes bumped up fares to $2.00 from $0.75 with places like Cranborne and Chadcombe increasing to $1.
Zimbabweans have in recent days been assailed by a wave price hikes and shortages of basic commodities as the country’s economy plunges just two months after the watershed July 30 elections.
The shortages have been blamed on the scarcity of foreign currency while finance minister Prof Mthuli Ncube’s new 2 percent tax on electronic transfers – the main mode of transacting – is seen as causing price hikes.
NewZimbabwe.com spoke to some of the Harare kombi operators who said the reason for the fare hikes was the shortage of fuel at service stations, adding that they also had no choice but to try and to make up for the time lost while sleeping in queues.
“I have to cover up for the time I am spending in queues; remember we have targets and if I spend half the time in a queue then what will I have achieved,” said a kombi who could only be identified as Boris
“I also have a family and they need to be fed as well. Ordinarily, they need to spend time with me as their father but nowadays they cannot because I am sleeping in fuel queues.”
Another driver added; “Most service stations now serve only those with company coupons. If you do not have a company coupon then it will be difficult to fuel up. So, we will do whatever it takes to feed our families.”
Meanwhile, energy minister Joram Gumbo said Wednesday that there was nothing government could do about service stations only serving people with company coupons.
“It is not up to us because it is the company’s management policy even though we do not recommend it; it’s up to them,” said the minister.
He however, insisted that the fuel supply situation was improving and assured the nation that government will do “whatever it takes to make sure that the country has enough supplies”.
Industry regulator, the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), also warned fuel dealers against creating artificial shortages by limiting supplies or hoarding for speculative purposes.
In a statement this week, the agency threatened to revoke licences for operators selling the product above stipulated prices.