By Zwelihle Sukati, Bodwa Mbingo and Nonduduzo Kunene | 2019-11-09
Shocking as it may sound; commuters are faced with a looming sharp increase in public transport fares, just when they are still trying to come to terms with an increase in the price of bread.
Public transport operators have proposed to government an increase in bus fares following a hike in fuel prices.
This came about during a meeting that was held yesterday in Manzini.
The hike in public transport fees is proposed for this Tuesday, November 12. A charge for any journey up to 8km will, if endorsed, skyrocket from E6 to E10. In a statement issued shortly after their meeting, the operators said they took into account that government had no control over the fluctuation of the price of automotive fuel and that it had increased a tax levy to the rate of E0.85 cents. Furthermore they said they were troubled by the continued depreciation of passenger service vehicles due to the ailing economy of the transport industry with very low upkeep of road infrastructure.
“We are further concerned that we draw our clientele from the general body of the citizens who largely rely on government for the provision of basic services. Furthermore, we believe that we play a vital role in sustaining the political economy due to the simple fact that a bulk of the country’s working population relies on our means of transportation.”
The following is what has been proposed to government, through the ministry of public works and transport; that there be a tripartite forum comprising public transport operators, public transport clientele (maybe represented by the consumers association) and government. It is suggested that this will be to generally address issues of joint concern to parties in this industry, and particularly to negotiate to finality, automobile fuel prices adjustments whenever the need arises.
Alternatively, there be a government /state subsidy for public transport operator’s fuel costs. The public transport industry has also proposed that the maximum Bus and Taxi fare (Amendment) Regulations of 2007 as promulgated under Legal Notice No. 124 of 2007 in the Government Gazette be urgently reviewed by the forum proposed in paragraph (1) above to include varying prizing of different modes of transport.
Lastly, the minister must expedite the establishment of the road fund as per the submission in parliament as the focus to be direct to the ailing road net- work which has an adverse effect on the day to day business of the industry operations.
The increase of diesel and petrol by E0.85c per litre, which has been effected through a government gazette with effect from yesterday, triggered the increase in transport fare, according to the statement.
This reflects a raise from E12.80 to E13.65 for ULP 95 petrol and low sulphur diesel, a shoot by 6.64 per cent across the board.
“As it is a fact that all other commodities that are used in the industry which include mainly tyres and spares will obviously increase and also that the fare adjustment hasn't been effected from 2015 to date, transport operators have always considered the economic state of the country and have the consumer in our mindset all the time on the issue of adjustments,” the statement further reads.
Hold your horses – Consumers Association
Eswatini Consumers Association Chairman Bongani ‘Bhanyaza’ Mdluli feels that public transport operators should not take advantage of the reining situation that fuel prices have increased to exploit commuters.
Speaking in an interview with the Saturday Observer yesterday Mdluli noted that fuel prices go up and down on an almost regular basis and that an increase in the commodity now should not be used to justify bus fare hikes by the transport operators.
He wondered if these operators will also decrease the fares when the price of fuel goes down in the future. He feels that there should be engagements with all stakeholders before such steep hikes are proposed and effected.
“They just shouldn’t take advantage of the situation to maximise their profits.
This is not the first time that the price of fuel has gone up and it will also go down in the future, but the question is will the transport operators decrease the fares when this happens.
We are cognisant of the fact that at some time the prices will have to increase, but this should come after consultations and engagements with the various stakeholders,” he pointed out.
This is only beginning of worse things to come – SNAT
Teachers feel that the looming increase in bus fares effective from Tuesday is only the beginning of worse things to come as the ripple effects of the country’s ailing economy manifest themselves.
They feel that the country is on a self destruction trajectory and that the situation will be even dire going forward as the prices of basic commodities and services increase.
Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT) Secretary General Sikelela Dlamini yesterday said to a balanced mind the proposed bus fare hike by the public transport operators is justifiable given the recent shocking hike in fuel. He said government is to blame for all that is happening now with its failure to effect a 9.5 per cent Cost of Living Adjustment (CoLA) on civil servants; salaries as they are the ones who should be pumping in money back to invigorate the economy.
He also noted that the public transport operators have left the bus fares the same for some time without increasing them hence it is understandable that they effect such hikes to be in line with the times.
“It is inevitable for them to increase the fares given the current state of the economy. It is a pity that this has to hit hard on the public yet it is government that is causing all this. The transport operators are in business and have to make profits in order to sustain their businesses.
They cannot sit around and incur losses since they still have to pay back the loans they make to buy their buses.
“This is where I feel the public should realise that the issue of a lack of CoLA for public servants is now a national crisis.
Not long ago, the prime minister promised the public that prices for basic commodities and services would be kept constant and within a twinkle of an eye the same government is reneging on that with the increase on bread and fuel. We, therefore, understand the predicament of the transport operators that has forced them to increase the fares,” he stated.
He also recalled that when Public Sector Associations (PSAs) tackled government on a number of social ills, many ran to the media in defense of government stating that they were not giving it time to correct the ills.
“At the speed and wrong trajectory we are going we might even find ourselves removed from the South African Rand common monetary area pact.
The growing public debt that now stands at E20 billion shows just how dire the situation has gotten to be in the country. It is high time everyone realises this and if the entire citizenry can embark on a march against the current socio-economic issues the state can find it hard to control the wave of revolution,” he added.
It’s all govt’s doing – TUCOSWA
TUCOSWA President Mduduzi Gina said they were not aware of the proposed increase in public transport fares but it was expected, following government’s increase in petrol and diesel levy.
In fact, the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland President said the expectation was that all basic commodities were bound to be on the hike. He said this was all government’s doing because of its quest to get more money, even in the form of fuel levy, to fund its poor spending priorities.
“Unfortunately, the reality is that the taxpayer will have to bear the costs because the public transport operators are in business and will want to protect their profits,” he pointed out. He said this was a sign to all and sundry that government’s priorities were not in order and so much selfish that it cared less about the populace.
TUCOSWA meets to discuss govt wasteful expenditure
This morning TUCOSWA will be meeting for a way forward on government’s wasteful expenditure, yet failing to cushion basic commodities.
The organisation’s president, Mduduzi Gina, lamented the proposed increase in public transports fare’s as he said this was government’s doing.
“Priorities should be on health and education, not buying cars. To say that it is government’s policy to change cars every five years doesn’t make any sense.
This is not business as usual,” Gina said. He said these were signs that the country was moving toward becoming a failed state.
Maximum Taxi Fares
Fares increase focused on specific distances
The escalation in public transport fares is focused on specific distances and for specific needs.
According to the issued statement this is to try accommodating a proportional increase with respect to distances covered for wear and tear.
In transport terminology, it is explained, a vehicle operating a short distance with multiple stopping intervals will have a higher maintenance expense than a vehicle that does longer distances. This has been factored in the proposal to avoid overcharging of our esteemed customers.
“After careful consideration of the above factors, the transport operators at the meeting held in Manzini on 08 November (yesterday) decided to propose an effect of varying fares and the proposal of the said adjustment is requested to take effect from 12 November,” it is announced in the statement.
Maximum Bus Fares:
1. A charge for any passenger journey up to eight kilometres - E10
2. for any journey in excess of eight kilometres but not exceeding 50 kilometres - E0.66
3. For any journey in excess of 50 kilometres and above - E0.63
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