By Yvonne Ncube
Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) has started charging fares in foreign currency alongside local currency, but passengers have decried the disregard for official exchange rates.
Yesterday, commuters were paying R10 or US$1 for kombis while buses were charging R5 or US$1 for two passengers per trip. The same trips cost about $50 and $30 for kombis and buses, respectively.
However, the official exchange rate for the local currency to the US dollar is 1:83, while the rand to the US dollar is 1:15.
Zupco southern division operations manager Mr Tineyi Rwasoka had by yesterday not responded to questions sent to him on Wednesday regarding the issue of payment in multi-currencies.
A Zupco conductor, who declined to be identified, said the forex fares came into effect last week.
“We have not been issued the ticket books yet but once they are issued passengers can now pay one dollar for two or R5 for the bus,” she said.
A number of commuters also confirmed paying in forex.
Passengers complained about the forex charges, saying they were higher than those in local currency, while others said they faced challenges with change when paying in forex.
“I boarded a kombi and I paid R10. I was, however, given a ticket in the local dollar denomination,” said Miss Khethiwe Ndlovu of Mahatshula.
Mr Adam Sibanda of Nkulumane said Zupco had to look into the exchange rate because those who used the local currency were paying less.
“In local currency, a kombi is $50 and US$1 in forex. If we use the official rate, a person who pays in forex would have paid about $80. It is the same with the rand to US rate. Zupco is using 1:20 but the official rate is about 1:15.
This makes it more expensive if one uses the rand compared to the US dollar,” said Mr Sibanda.
Residents have said the Government should look into the forex fares issue as the forex rate is not attractive for commuters.
“These fares should be adjusted so that those who pay in forex are not short changed,” said Mrs Priscilla Moyo of Entumbane.
Some commuters observed that there is more order on Zupco buses and kombis than on privately-owned kombis that used to transport the public before the initial lockdown in March last year.
“There were abusive touts who virtually ran the kombis. They could decide on a whim to increase fares and everyone would be forced to pay.
“They insulted passengers and most of the drivers flouted traffic laws thereby endangering the public,” said Mr Ambrose Dube of Gwabalanda suburb.
“However, I think the Government should avail more Zupco buses and kombis because when the economy returns to normal, the existing fleet will be overwhelmed. Nowadays, Zupco is coping because most people are staying at home because of the lockdown and schools are closed.”
Only Zupco registered buses and kombis are allowed to transport commuters in terms of Covid-19 prevention regulations.
Authorities recently directed Zupco to enforce social distancing on buses in order to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission.
Zupco in January announced a 100 percent hike in fares which saw passengers paying $30 up from $16 for a trip within a 20-kilometre radius, with passengers travelling distances ranging between 21–30km paying $45 up from $24. Those travelling on routes within a 31km and 40km radius paid $60 up from $32. The Chronicle