Tue. Feb 18th, 2020


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Hope Of Uncertainty In Zimbabwe

Harare-Graham Dengu starts his journey to work at 4:30 am risking his life by passing through robber infested places. He does this to save his income as transport fares have sky rocketed to alarming levels.

Recent fuel price hike triggered an increase in transport fares as well as basic commodities. For Dengu, the use of commuter omnibus to work means his salary is chewed up.

“Life has become unbearable, I am risking my life going to work. I walk through places that are well known hubs for robbers. I used to use commuter omnibuses to work but now I am walking as a way of saving money” said Dengu

Whilst increases in fuel prices have been effected twice this year, salaries remain stagnant. Retailers have also hiked prices of basic goods. Fuel has also been in short supply as private operators resort to the parallel market for fuel.

Despite the Government announcing lower bus fare which are only limited to Zupco a government owned company, private transport operators are charging triple fares.

According to Finance Permanent Secretary George Guvamatanga the lowest fare would cost 75 cents.

“Please be advised that the Zupco bus fares on Operation Restore Sanity have been reduced by 50 percent from 21 May 2019. This has been necessitated by the need to cushion the travelling public” said Guvamatanga

In February a fuel price increase announced by President Mnangagwa caused protests across the country and left several dead and others injured.

The move to reduce bus fares was viewed as a way to contain public protests similar to the one that occurred in February. After the reduction of fares a new fuel price was announced. The retail price of petrol per litre is now RTGS$4, 97 whilst diesel costs RTGS$4, 89.

Zimbabwe has been grappling with a deteriorating economy owing to shortage of foreign currency with no near end in sight.

Despite being a multi-currency economy the government has introduced the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) dollar. The currency had been pegged at par with the US dollar.

The RTGS dollar was supposed to bring together bond notes and debit card and mobile money payments to make sure that they are all worth the same.

The government has since given up on the pretence that it is at par with the US dollar, instead they are saying the value of the RTGS against the US dollar will be determined by the interbank market.

On its inception in February the RTGS traded at 2.50 against the US dollar which was less than the 3.50 at the parallel market.

The RTGS now officially trades at 4.50 against the US dollar whilst it trades at between RTGS $7 and 7.50 on the parallel market.

The continued variation has seen retail shops increasing prices of goods with others charging in US dollar.

“We are left with no option but to charge prices in line with the rate of the day. Charging high prices in local currency is cushioning against inflation. We have a three tier pricing system, one for mobile and bank transfers as well as RTGS and US dollar” said Ousmane Mussa a shop owner in Harare

Whilst buying goods may seem to be going on well some shoppers say they have nothing to do.

“Things are tough and we cannot continue under these situations. Prices are being charged in US dollars and we earn RTGS dollars, where do they think that we are going to get the US dollar?” said Trevor Gambiza

Despite all these distortions President Mnangagwa’s administration has been constantly saying prices will stay the same or even decline as stability and predictability is brought into the market.

For Graham Dengu, life has to go on as he knocks off work to embark on another three hour journey that leads into late night.

Elia Ntali is a Freelance Journalist based in Harare, Zimbabwe. He has 8 years’ experience of reporting.