Zupco fare hike a harbinger of what lies ahead

Zimbabwe United Passenger Company

THESE are, indeed, interesting times.

The State-controlled Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (Zupco) last week hiked its fares as well as the exchange rate for all its routes. This increase comes just over two months since the public transporter hiked its fares.

From end of August’s $300 for a distance of 1-20km, $400 for 21-30km and $550 for 31-40km, Zupco is now charging a flat fare of US$1 or $800 regardless of whether one is travelling a kilometre or 40km journey.

What is very interesting about all this is that Zupco’s exchange rate is far much higher than the average $635 to the greenback official exchange rate. The fare increase also comes as the “prices are falling” mantra is awash.

While we would have thought that such institutions as Zupco would be at the forefront of shoring up government policy and initiatives as far as the economy was concerned, it comes as a real surprise when they are at the forefront of thumbing their noses at government initiatives.

Or maybe they have no choice, but to be realiastic, otherwise they may sink.

So does this mean that the official $635:US$1 official exchange rate is not the reality and government is actually pulling wool over our eyes? Otherwise what can explain Zupco’s parallel market-induced exchange rate?

Incidentally, this is where the black market rate is now hovering. So where does this leave us as a country when a government institution starts charging black market rates when the rest of us get into serious trouble if ever we are discovered to be charging the parallel market rates?

Under the circumstances, we are tempted to concur with the National Consumer Rights Association, whose spokesperson Effie Ncube has told us: “The fact is that the Zimbabwean dollar is worth less than what the government would like citizens to believe. The government-dictated rate is completely out of touch with the realities on the ground.”

If, indeed, this is true that the official bank rate is artificial and we are all being fooled, does it then mean that Zupco’s latest move is a harbinger of what lies ahead for the country?

And we are pretty sure that Zupco did not just wake up after dreaming that figure and decided to announce it without serious thought being put into it; which means that if government decides to reverse the public transporter’s decision, let us be rest assured that hell will break loose at the parastatal, where we also hear all buses are now being asked to purchase their own fuel.

Zupco has obviously seen the light and realised that it is no longer sustainable to keep charging its services at the government rate.

We, however, sincerely hope that wheels are not falling off government’s economic game plan currently hinged on bridling the parallel rate and runaway inflation. If they are, then we are damned.

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