Walking the only choice for many

Every day thousands of Zimbabweans take to the streets on their way to work and then back home again. They walk in some cases for distances as long as 25km because they cannot afford the transport costs that have been rising on a weekly basis.

Edward, 27, stays in Epworth and is one of the few people who are still in the light industries of Zimbabwe. He like his workmates wakes up as early 5 a.m. to prepare to engage in a journey that has ceased to wear him down.

I’m used to the walking because I have been doing it since 2003. If I am to go to work by bus then I will be working for transport only. I do not even get to eat lunch because it’s very expensive.

The government fleet of buses is down and the few that are still roadworthy have been diverted to carrying policemen and soldiers as Robert Mugabe tries to come to grips with the poll results. The uniformed forces are bused into town everyday in their droves.

“ZUPCO buses are cheaper but, there are no longer coming to our places we only see them in town parked at police stations. The kombis are expensive and they hike there rates willy nilly. I have resorted to cycling from my home in Chitungwiza,” says Moses, who wakes up as early as 4am to cover a distance of 30km from the dormitory town were the majority of workers reside.

Every morning people in groups with an assortment of regalia from work suits to business suits dash to work. They share jokes and discuss politics. The numbers thin as they pass the posh suburbs of Hillside. Some of the trekkers, who are domestic workers, will have reached their workplaces.

“My boss used to give me bus fare, but he has since stopped because the transport costs are now very expensive. My co-workers have since left, but I have to persevere since my kids need to eat,” said Thelma Moyo who works in the industrial area of Graniteside.

Thelma earns less than $1.5billion. She is  mother of three and her combined earnings with her husband’s are still under the poverty datum line of $1.5.

With a monthly inflation in excess of over 150% the poverty datum line for an average family of six is likely to increase to over $3billion. This is not augured by pay increases so many people will have to walk to save something from their earnings that are corroded by inflation.

The government established an affordable rail facility, but the location makes it difficult to use. “Its almost the same with walking straight to work and going to the railway station in Ruwa,” said Thelma.

The trains are also not reliable and one risks not going to work altogether if one waits for the train. Apart from that, many people have lost trust in rail transport because of accidents that have been regular in the country rail network due to vandalism.

Places like Chitungwiza, where many people live, do not have a rail line. The sign that proclaims its construction is rusty and one has to get closer to read it . The sign was put in the ’80s and up to date there is not a sign that it will ever be constructed.

Many skilled workers have left the country for greener pastures, the few that are still in the country are either part of the 85% who are unemployed, or are those with the stamina to endure the economic meltdown. Walking to work is one preferred method of saving the meagre remunerations.

The Southern African country that is teetering on the brink of economic social and political oblivion is home to the region highest taxed workers. Economist and trade unionist condemned the government review of the tax threshold and described it as total madness. What the worker is left with is not enough to cover transport costs, medication and basic needs.

Post published in: Opinions

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