Transport operators hike fares as Christmas rush begins

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Major bus termini, depots and popular hiking spots in Bulawayo were yesterday a hive of activity as bustling crowds of people jostled to catch buses to travel to various destinations ahead of Christmas.

Some companies closed yesterday for the annual Christmas holiday shutdown.

The number of travellers using Beitbridge Border Post increased as Zimbabweans based in Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa returned home for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Authorities at Beitbridge Border Post said there has been an increase in the number of travellers entering the country through the port of entry.

Yesterday, the border post was a hive of activity as travellers moved to and from Zimbabwe.

Official border statistics show that an average of 24 000 travellers, 2 000 light vehicles, 1 000 commercial trucks and 200 buses are crossing the border daily.

At Renkini, there was a commotion as scores of travellers jostled to catch buses. Bus crews could be seen trying to outdo each other as they touted for passengers.

There was a continuous inflow and outflow of buses with a scramble between those who wanted to alight from the buses and those intending to board.

Equally, the terminus was abuzz with vendors selling their wares, from food items to trinkets. The vendors shouted out their prices as they advertised their wares to hordes of travellers.

Some delighted passengers peered through the windows as they waved at their loved ones who were seeing them off.

Transport operators plying rural routes have also increased fares capitalising on an increase in the number of people travelling to their homes to spend Christmas with their families.

A snap survey by the Chronicle yesterday revealed that buses plying the Bulawayo-Nkayi route are now charging US$20 for a single trip up from US$10.

Buses plying the Bulawayo-Kezi route are now charging US$5 from US$3 while kombis are charging US$7.

Buses are charging US$10 for a trip from Bulawayo to Lupane while those travelling to Binga will have to fork out US$15. Previously they charged US$10 for a single trip.

Transport operators who spoke to the Chronicle yesterday attributed the fare increase to the holiday rush which has prompted them to increase the number of trips to meet the demand.

A bus driver plying the Bulawayo-Nkayi route, Mr Benedict Ngwenya said: “Usually, during this time of the year, there is demand and this forces us to increase the number of trips, which translates to more fuel consumption hence the increase in fares.”

“We also have some people who opt to send their groceries home, and we charge the luggage depending on the weight,” said Mr Ngwenya.

A vendor operating at Renkini, Mr Witness Ncube said due to the predicted El Nino-induced drought, business was low.

“I sell farming implements such as hoes, and ploughs and during this time of the year, business is brisk. However, this year, business is low and I guess it is because of low rainfall patterns,” he said.

A passenger Mrs Sihle Sithole said despite the fare hike, she was excited to be visiting her parents in Nkayi for Christmas.

“This is the only time we get a chance to visit our parents in the rural areas because of work and other commitments. The bus fare has increased, but all the same, I am happy since I will able to spend Christmas with my parents and children,” she said.

Bulawayo Bus Operators Association chairman Mr Patrick Dube urged drivers to prioritise the safety of passengers.

“As bus operators, we always advise our drivers to adhere to road traffic laws, especially during holidays such as this one when there would be a lot of movement and road traffic accidents,” he said.

Police and the Traffic Safety Council of Zimbabwe (TSCZ) are also running a road safety campaign to educate people on the importance of adhering to road traffic laws to avoid accidents.

In an interview yesterday, TSCZ communications officer Ms Lucy Kuwandira said the campaign started on 18 December and will run until 7 January.

“The theme for this campaign is ‘Together we can save lives’. We chose these dates because this is when most people will be travelling for the festive holidays. The campaign is targeting everyone who uses the roads because it is everyone’s responsibility to protect each other from any accidents that happen on the road,” she said.

Ms Kuwandira urged motorists to adhere to traffic laws and attributed most of the accidents to human error such as speeding and drunk driving.

“The campaign is being run from highways where roadblocks have been mounted and we are working with the police. Traffic safety officers and the police are educating people on these roadblocks because we want an accident-free festive season,” she said.

Meanwhile, Bulawayo acting police spokesperson Assistant Inspector Nomalanga Msebele said they have deployed more officers to enforce traffic rules and regulations and combat crime during the holiday period.

She said police will be conducting patrols throughout the city.

“We also have deployed enough manpower to do patrols during the holiday. For those who will be travelling and leaving their homes unattended, they should inform us so that we are on the lookout,” said Asst Insp Msebele.

“We do not charge people for such services. People should just come and report at their nearest station and police will make sure they go and check the house regularly.”

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