By Marshall Bwanya
Acute fuel shortages across the country have provided fertile ground for black market dealers to sell fuel at exorbitant prices.
This has had visible effects as Commuter Omnibus operators who are getting fuel from clandestine sources are conveying the costs to commuters.
This economic scourge of fuel shortages has cascaded into a national transport crisis, many passengers have been left in a dilemma sourcing out transport to reach their desired destined.
Although ZUPCO buses have contributed a significant role to cushion the transport crisis faced by most ordinary Zimbabweans, their limited number has presented another predicament as they cannot meet the excessive demand.
The inadequacy of ZUPCO buses to meet the demand of affordable transport has resulted in these operators exceeding the prescribed 74 number of passengers littering cities and towns with long queues, breaking the law through overloading.
Street pavements, roads and ranks have become heavily congested by passengers seeking to access the service of ZUPCO buses.
This has become a major inconvenience to most motorists driving around the city in their day to day businesses.
While for thieves and pick-pockets a congested pavement means business is booming.
Government critics have been stressing out that the current transport crisis cannot be solved by providing alternative affordable ZUPCO buses but by actually remedying the fuel crisis itself.
Minister of Energy and Power Development Fortune Chasi highlighted that there are several factors influencing fuel shortages.
“There are a number of factors why we experiencing fuel shortages, key of which we have foreign currency shortages.
“When it becomes easier to access foreign currency it will impact on our ability to deal with fuel shortages,” he said.
Chasi reiterated that were corrupt players in the sector who were unscrupulously channeling fuel to the black market.
The Energy minister said government was putting in place mechanisms to curb the black market operators.
“There are various types of misconduct in the sector, refusal to accept certain legitimate payment instruments, in fact insisting on illegal payment systems.
“Government is working on a remote monitoring system that will tell us every detail about every detail of fuel, be it petrol or diesel, its journey until it gets into fuel tank.
“This is the Matsimba project we are working on,” he said.
Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) president Tafadzwa Goliati asserted that his organisation has been lobbying commuter omnibus operators to operating within associations to come up with desirable fares.
Goliati noted that commuter omnibus fares were also being hiked by touts trying to capitalise from the fuel crisis.
“Touts also contribute in increasing the fares of commuter omnibuses to profit.
“Paz has been lobbying the relevant authorities from the removal of touts in ranks and bus terminuses, he said.
Goliati reiterated that had communicated with ZUPCO management not overload as it was detrimental for passengers health and security.
The PAZ president said there had appealed to government and ZUPCO operators to facilitate more buses to meet the current demand for affordable transport.
“PAZ continues to encourage government to avail more buses for the convenience of passengers.
“We have also been constantly engaging ZUPCO operators to adjust their timetables that is convenient to passengers,” he said.
Rodney Mlambo a passenger from Warren Park bemoaned that PAZ and ZUPCO operators engagement has not yet yielded desired results that beneficial to passengers.
“ZUPCO buses only leave to our desired destination after they are full capacity which is not convenient for us who are time conscious employees.
“At the end of the day we are forced to forego affordable transport for Commuter omnibuses charging exorbitant fares,” he said
Mellisa Rujeke a passenger from Budiro bemoaned that oveloading ZUPCO buses was exposing them to theft and indecent assault.
“ZUPCO bus operators tendency of overloading is is serious inconvenience detrimental to our dignity and livelihoods.
“When buses are overloaded and passengers are squeezed together some men have a bad habit of fondling and brushing their sex starved manhoods on our buttocks,” she said.
The Minister of Local Government, Rural and Urban Development honorable July Moyo tasked with overseeing ZUPCO buses could not be reached for comment at the stipulated time this publication came out.