LONG distance travellers in Harare were yesterday left stranded as they failed to get transport to their rural homes for the holiday due to a shortage of Zupco buses.
In a survey by the Daily News, many travellers at Mbare Musika said they are struggling to get to their destinations in time as the public transporter’s fleet was unable to meet demand.
The shortage of Zupco buses opened up space for private commuter omnibuses and pirate taxis who took advantage of the desperate travellers to charge exorbitant fares.
To make matters worse, some travellers were drenched by the light rains that fell in the capital for a brief period yesterday due to the dilapidated state of bus sheds at the terminus.
Holiday makers wishing to travel to Bulawayo were expected to pay US$20 for a trip that normally costs between US$10 and US$12.
Commuter omnibus crews were demanding US$12 for a trip to Masvingo, up from the normal US$8.
Passengers travelling to Magunje were being charged US$20, up from US$4 on normal days.
Besides the steep fares, travellers were also at the mercy of pickpockets who had a field day at the crowded bus terminus.
A passenger, Wonder Shoko, told the Daily News that he spent more than four hours waiting for transport to Magunje since he was unable to pay the fare being charged by the unregistered operators.
“Drivers of private cars are capitalising on the situation and they are making a killing this festive season.
“A trip that normally costs $481 by Zupco is going for US$12 when using kombis and private cars,” Shoko said.
Another frustrated passenger, Shelma Dehwe, said she had been waiting since morning for a Zupco bus to travel to Bulawayo but was still at Mbare late in the afternoon.
“We have been here since morning waiting for the Zupco buses but they are not enough.
“And in the event that we finally get a bus, we will get to Bulawayo very late in the night and we risk getting mugged,” lamented Dehwe.
Travellers were also forced to endure long queues at the Zupco office to buy their tickets, with no social distancing being observed in breach of Covid-19 protocols.
“Look at that Zupco bus travelling to Murewa but there is no one inside. All the passengers wanting to travel to Murewa are waiting in that long queue at the Zupco office.
“People who want to travel to all the other destinations are in that queue but there are no buses to ferry them. So, why don’t they just allow the people who want to travel to Murewa pay for their tickets in the bus?” a traveller, who only identified himself as Philemon, said.
Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (Paz) president Tafadzwa Goliati said they were hoping all travellers would be able to get public transport by the end of the day.
“We are monitoring the situation, especially the long-distance sector during the festive season so that passengers reach their final destinations safely and in time,” Goliati told the Daily News.
Efforts to get a comment from Zupco acting chief executive Everisto Madangwa proved fruitless yesterday.