Kombis plying some City routes have increased fares by 100% from R5 to $1 since the beginning of the year. Routes such as Chikurubi, Borrowdale and Epworth which used to cost R5 per trip, are now costing $1. Other routes, such as most Chitungwiza destinations, now costing $1.50 up from the normal charge of $1.
For some routes, the fare increases are experienced only during peak hours, but for other routes such as the Chikurubi-Mandara-Kamfinsa via Samora Machel Avenue route, the fare hike has become permanent. A trip from Fourth Street now costs US$1 at any time of the day.
At the Fourth Street bus terminus most Northern routes are also being charged at $1 per trip. A conductor plying the Chikurubi route, who refused to be named, said that the price hike was meant to protect the kombi crews from “heavy” fines. “Increased police presence on the road has contributed to the price rise. It has become difficult for us to meet our targets because we get arrested on a daily basis.” Since last year traffic authorities have increased their presence in Harare to bring order to the roads. Kombis in Harare are notorious for causing unnecessary carnage on the roads as they break every traffic regulation from using undesignated pick-up points to the overloading of passengers.
Another commuter driver at the Fourth Street bus terminus, identified as Samuel, who covers the Borrowdale route, said the fare rise was due in part to the increased number of kombis on the City’s roads. “There are now many kombis on the road and this has reduced the number of trips I can make per day making it difficult to meet my daily goal of $80. So by charging a dollar I’ll be able to meet my target,” said Samuel.
However, some commuters interviewed said that it was insensitivity on the part of the kombis to hike fares in the face of the current economic hardships. Osward Tigere (35) who lives in Epworth said the fare hike has had a negative impact on his life. “I cannot afford $1 per trip so I am now forced to sit pakadoma (the area behind the front seats of a kombi) where I only pay R5,” he said.
Another commuter, Rudo Masenda (42) who uses Samora Machel Avenue to commute from Eastlea, said that authorities should act on the fare hike as it was now affecting many people. Eastlea is less than 5km from the City Centre and Masenda said that she feels cheated by the kombi drivers. “How can kombi crews hike fares when most people are struggling due to the current economic crunch? It is better if the responsible authorities formulate another price control regulation just like in the Zim-dollar era because we are now being robbed in broad daylight,” complained Masenda.
However, Aaron Tapfuma of the Zimbabwe National Commuter Operators Organisation (ZNCOO) explained how the fares are worked out. For a journey of 0.1 up to 10km, his organisation calculates that the cost should be $0.98 per passenger. For a journey 10.1 up to 20km the charge is based on a sliding scale but not double. “These fares have changed slightly because of an increase in the price of fuel, spare parts and other accessories,” said Tapfuma.
Photo: Kombis use an illegal pick up point in town (Farai Dauramanzi)