By Shamiso Dzingire
Commuters in Bulawayo have expressed frustration over inflated EcoCash fares charged by kombi and taxi operators despite adoption of mobile transport payments. Commuters who spoke to Bulawayo Bureau said they were being forced to fork out between $1 and $1,50 using the Ecocash facility, if they do not have cash as most commuter operators do not offer swiping services.
This is despite the fact that some public transport operators in the city recently started offering swipe services to their customers following the introduction of Kwenga Service by Econet Subsidiary, Steward Bank, in February this year.
Kwenga is Steward Bank’s portable point of sale (POS) machine that is ideal for small transactions from as little as 50 cents.
“We are forced to fork out a dollar instead of the gazetted 50 cents using EcoCash because we can’t transact amounts less than a dollar. This is not fair on us because it is not our fault that there are cash shortages,” said Miss Precious Ndlovu from Cowdray Park suburb.
Miss Ndlovu said failure to avail swiping services in kombis was straining their budget and discouraging use of mobile money.
“Most of these kombis do not offer swiping services. As a result, I’m forced to allocate more money into transport costs per month in the event that I fail to withdraw cash from the bank,” she added.
In June, EcoCash scrapped transaction fees below a dollar.
Another commuter, Mr Babusisiwe Ncube from Romney Park said kombi drivers refuse to issue them with change when they pay their fares using EcoCash.
“Kombi drivers refuse to give us change, citing the cash crisis because they feel like they are giving you their hard earned cash, which is scarce these days,” he said.
Mr Ncube suggested that public transport operators consider giving tokens to commuters who transact using mobile money.
Bulawayo Public Transport Association (Bupta) acting director Mr Keeper Ndlovu said he was not aware of the incidents, and encouraged commuters to report these “unscrupulous” drivers.
“As an association, we do not condone such practices. This is robbery and I encourage our customers take down the details of kombis that do this,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Commenting on the adoption of Kwenga POS machines, Mr Ndlovu said the hype about the technology did not translate into adoption. Although he could not state the exact number of kombis using the device, he said most operators were initially excited about the technology but did not adopt it.
In February, Steward bank indicated that about 1,000 machines had been distributed to Bulawayo kombi operators.
Acquiring the device costs $35 and $200 for the smaller and bigger device respectively while acquiring a traditional POS machine cost $600 and $700. The device can also be used by up to five users hence the costs of acquiring the machine can be shared. The Herald