Andile Tshuma/Mkhululi Ncube, Chronicle Reporters
SCORES of commuters in Bulawayo were left stranded yesterday as fuel shortages grounded most of the Zupco fleet.
The city has been facing acute fuel shortages which the Ministry of Energy and Power Development said was a nationwide crisis owing to foreign currency shortages.
Fresh transport problems started on Monday afternoon as there were very few buses and kombis servicing routes and many people opted to walk home.
At 6pm yesterday, which marks the start of the lockdown curfew, people were still queuing at some Zupco ranks waiting for transport, while a number of people walked home to suburbs as far as Cowdray Park.
Commuters who spoke to Chronicle said they expected better service from the bus company, which effected a 100 percent fare hike on Saturday.
Bus fare went up from $4 to $8, while a ride on the Zupco kombi now costs $16, from $8.
Yesterday morning, there were many people at bus stops in suburbs such as Sizinda, Tshabalala and Nkulumane, but buses and kombis were in no-show.
At around 9am, a few kombis came, but were overwhelmed by the high number of commuters needing transport.
Efforts to get a comment from Zupco chief executive officer Mr Evaristo Madangwa were fruitless as he was not responding to calls while Zupco Southern Region manager Mr Tinei Rwasoka was also not available for comment.
A Zupco official in Bulawayo who spoke on condition of anonymity said the fuel problem is caused by challenges accessing foreign currency.
“Foreign currency is the major problem, we need about 210 000 litres of fuel per week. Right now we got delivery of 40 000 litres, while another 100 000 is expected from Harare. It’s a difficult situation but the situation will improve soon,” said the source.
A Zupco kombi driver who identified himself as Phila Nkomo, plying the Sizinda-Tshabalala- City centre route, said they had been promised deliveries today.
“This could be my last trip. I’m running low on fuel, and there’s no chance of refuelling today, but at the depot they said maybe tomorrow (today), as a tanker is expected. But they just said maybe. It was not definite,” he said.
Commuters said they were worried about failing to get transport on their way back from the city centre after the curfew time had lapsed.
Ms Thelma Dube, a cashier at a local supermarket said she had run late for work but was assured by the fact that her colleagues had also reported having transport problems.
“I am supposed to be at work by 7 am daily. But right now, it’s past nine and I am still at the bus stop. I’m worried that I will have the same problem on my way back until curfew time starts. I may not have a problem in town as I wait at the rank with many people. But when I arrive in the township after six, I may get into trouble if I bump into police officers or soldiers and they won’t buy my story of having transport problems,” she said.
Another commuter, a health worker, who declined to identify herself, said she was late for her shift at a hospital where she was on day duty.
“Already I’m dragging my feet to work due to the ongoing crisis. The transport problem is worsening the situation. I’m considering just going back home and calling it quits for the day,” she said.
Said Mrs Linet Mhlanga: “The transport situation is affecting us seriously more so for us women who have to attend to house chores like bathing and cooking but I am tired. This issue must be addressed once and for all.” — @themkhust_ncube @andile_tshuma