Bulawayo bus operators reject local currency, demand US$ or Rand
Commuter omnibus operators in Bulawayo are rejecting payment of fares in local currency, opting for either United States dollars or South African Rand instead.
This follows the accelerated depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar in recent weeks, which President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Tuesday attributed to greedy profiteering by businesses, and economic sabotage ahead of elections in August by countries opposed to the government.
As a result, prices pegged in local currency in shops are going up daily, hitting the public hard. Some retailers and other businesses have resorted to selling only in United States dollars.
Bulawayo bus operators have now joined the bandwagon and are demanding fare payment exclusively in foreign currency.
The move has particularly affected children who commute to and from school daily in the city, Zimbabwe’s second biggest.
The majority of workers in the country are paid in local currency.
But bus operators said they had resorted to demanding payment in foreign currency to hedge against both inflation and the unstable exchange rates.
“It`s now difficult to peg our fares in local currency because of the currency volatility in the market in the last two weeks. For example, if someone pays ZWL$1 500 today and tomorrow the rates explode, this means I will not be able to buy fuel or spare parts,” Owen Ncube, a bus driver in the city, said.
His sentiments were echoed by another bus driver, Themba Nkiwane who plies the city-Burnside route, who said it is unsustainable to peg their fares in local currency as they buy most consumables and spare parts in forex.
“Given the prevailing situation in the market, we are left with no choice but to charge in forex currency. Until our currency is stable, we will reject to charge in Rtgs,” said Nkiwane.
Even the pirate taxis in the city, commonly known as Mushikashika, were also now charging exclusively in foreign currency.
Freddie Mlandu, who plies the city-Montrose route, said he is supposed to cash in USD$30 per day to the car owner.
“I can’t charge in local currency because my boss needs foreign currency every day. It will be difficult for me to go to the black market and buy forex. The rates will be too high, and I will incur some losses,” he said.
Some students said they had resorted to walking because their parents and guardians could not afford the forex fares demanded by transport operators.
“I walk a distance of 5km to school every day because my parents cannot afford bus fare. Both parents earn their salaries in local currency,” said a student from Milton Boys High School.
Commuters appealed to the government to cushion them by introducing more conventional buses to ply city routes, saying they can’t afford to buy forex on the black market for transport.
In 2019, the government introduced conventional buses under the Zupco franchise to cushion commuters against high fares which were being charged by private transport operators. New Ziana