Transport operators park their taxis (09-07-07)

A transport crisis has hit Zimbabwe's second largest city as transport operators have parked their commuter omnibuses after being forced to slash their fares in-line with the government operation of price controls.

A government unit drawn from all its security agencies

which include the police, army and intelligence operatives descended on the transport operators this morning in Bulawayo forcing them to rollback their fares to $15 000 from $50 000.

This follows an order by the government for fuel stations to reduce their prices after warning staff at garages that they faced arrest and seizure of their fuel stocks if the price of gasoline was not slashed by more than half.

According to the Minister of Industry and International Trade, Obert Mpofu, fuel stations should rollback their prices to $60 000 a litre from between $160 000 and $180 000 last week.

However, transport operators have reacted to the order to slash their fares by parking their commuter omnibuses, arguing the reduction of fuel alone would not see them reap any profits due to the high cost of spares and operating environment.

Spokesperson of the Bulawayo United Passenger Transport Operators Association said when contacted for comment: “We have resolved to just park our omnibuses as we would be running at a loss. Fuel has also disappeared from garages and we are forced to buy at a black market after they were ordered to reduce their prices.”

Last week, the government ordered sweeping price cuts of around 50 percent to curb inflation and stop profiteering and overcharging by businesses. Shops have already been ordered to reduce prices as President Robert Mugabe seeks to beat hyper-inflation that he fears may spark civil unrest and drive him from power.

Price inspectors and police have raided stories, warehouses and gas stations to enforce the order, as the falling prices caused stampedes, panic buying and near-riots by impoverished Zimbabweans- CAJ News.

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