By Wisdom Mumera
Harare commuters today (Monday) expressed happiness for the seemingly positive results of the recent shutdown protests after commuter operators reduced their fares for transport into the Central Business District.
Kombi operators some of whom were exorbitantly charging as much as $2 for short distances such as Warren Park to town, $3 to Kuwadzana and $5 from Norton, citing a hike in fuel prices have had to adjust their prices back to $1 and $1.50.
This move follows government’s introduction of buses to service the same routes at lower charges putting pressure on the kombi operators to change their pricing or lose customers.
“It no longer made sense to go to work when the bigger percentage of the salary was now set to cover transport only. That was part of reason why the shutdown was so successful; we had no money to go to work,” said one lady from Warren Park.
Another elderly commuter, Simon Mutamba, added that the change was good news for their pockets.
“It was pure madness. How do you have a kombi charging $3 for such a short journey from Kuwadzana even if there had been a fuel hike? We are breathing better now though much still needs to be done,” he said.
However, kombi operators, seemingly aggrieved at the loss of business, were cynical of the move saying it would further damage government’s coffers.
“Vabereki (the passengers) are happy that government has brought in these buses but this will affect it in the long run because these buses are getting full tanks, but who is paying for all that expensive fuel is the question,” said one tout
He further explained that kombis have reduced their fares to remain competitive but it will not be sustainable for them going forward.
The recent hike in fuel prices was the catalyst for violent protests over the increasingly high cost of living in the country.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) which called for the stay away has since demanded that government reduce the price of fuel and remove the bond notes among some of the economic interventions to stabilize the situation.