Mangwe transport operators, plying the Bulawayo-Mambale and Bulawayo-Makorokoro routes have taken advantage of the Christmas and New Year holidays, characterised by many travellers to effect a 50 percent hike in fares, CITE can report.
Kombis have since become the main means of transport for the people of Mangwe who travel to and fro rural Matabeleland South to Plumtree town, Bulawayo and other areas in the district such as Brunapeg Hospital and Ingwizi Irrigation Scheme.
The coming in of kombis follows the recent withdrawal of Ajay Motorways buses which now ply Bulawayo urban routes under the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) franchise.
A trip from Mambale to Bulawayo which was R150 prior 23 December now costs R200 while those travelling from Khalanyoni to Plumtree town now have to part with R150 up from R100.
The South African Rand is the main currency used in Mangwe as is the case with six other Matabeleland South districts, due to the province’s proximity to Africa’s most industrialised economy.
Kombi operators are making a killing in forex, with travellers voluntarily paying in Rand, which they not only understand but also have easy access to compared to the scarce local currency.
“We have to take advantage of this holiday where there are many injivas (Zimbabweans based in South Africa) travelling and make money as well,” one kombi driver told CITE.
The driver, plying the Bulawayo-Mambale route said he would in a day take a full trip from Bulawayo via Empandeni to Mambale and down in Matshamhlophe and then have another full trip from Matshamhlophe to Brunapeg before proceeding to Bulawayo very early next morning also on a full trip.
“I am feeling sleepy as you can see but I cannot afford to sleep when I need to make some money. Unless you work in this Zimbabwe of ours, you are bound to suffer,” he said.
However, the hiking of fares did not go down well with the travellers, who took a swipe at kombi operators for profiteering at their expense.
“Paying R200 to travel to Bulawayo, is just ridiculously too much, considering the same trip costs only R100 when using a bus,” complained Sithabile Sibanda of Khalanyoni.
“These people (kombi operators) are just mad. Where do they think we get that money from?”
Some travellers questioned the uniform fares despite differences in distances.
Despite the high fares kombis fill-up while some travellers are left behind due to space constraints.
Bad roads, which even get worse when it rains, have not deterred kombi operators from harvesting foreign currency in the district at a time when the government has banned all forex transactions.