13 September 2012

Zambia: Hold Your Fire, Bus Operators Told

GOVERNMENT has urged bus operators in Lusaka to revert to old fares until the Minister of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications looks at their proposal as well as the concerns raised by the Commuters Rights Association of Zambia (CRAZ).

This follows a decision by bus operators to increase fares by K600.00 on all routes in Lusaka, a moved which various stakeholders have described as unjustified.

Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Deputy Minister, Panji Kaunda said yesterday that there was need for the minister to look at the issue before the increment was effected.

Colonel Kaunda said that bus operators were at liberty to seek audience with the minister instead of increasing fares without considering other concerns.

Col. Kaunda said he had already issued a statement to the effect that the there was a new minister at the ministry who had been out of the country and has had no time to look at the bus fare issue.

Recently, President Michael Sata swapped Mines, Energy and Water Development Minister, Christopher Yaluma with Transport, Works, Supply and Communications inister, Yamfwa Mukanga.

Mr Yaluma, who is now Transport, Works, Supply and Communications Minister, was on duty in Sudan and only returned this week.

But CRAZ president, Aaron Kamuti has urged Government to intervene in the stand-off between operators and the association since negotiations were never concluded.

The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) has also appealed to Government to intervene in the matter as the move would negatively affect workers.

Similarly, the labour movement has opposed the planned tariff increase by ZESCO saying they would petition the matter through the Energy Regulation Board (ERB).

ZCTU president Leonard Hikaumba said at a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that the K600.00 hike in bus fares was unjustified as it was mainly attributed to the recent minimum wage increase.

He said on a number of occasions when favourable changes in economic factors such as a reduction in fuel prices had taken place, there was no corresponding reduction in the bus fares.

On the ZESCO tariffs, Mr Hikaumba said it was of great concern that ZESCO had applied for an upward adjustment of electricity tariffs.

ZESCO proposed an upward adjustment of electricity tariffs by an average of 26 per cent across all customer categories for the year 2012 to 2013.

The power supply company also proposed further annual upward adjustments of 31 per cent, 34 per cent and 13 per cent for the years, 2013, 2014 and 2015, respectively.

He said it was of particular concern that previous upwards adjustments by ZESCO did not translate into improved performance of the power utility company.

He said the planned petition from the workers would be presented to the ERB before the close of the submissions.

"We urge Government to quickly appoint a board for ERB. We note that from the time the board was dissolved, decisions of the ERB are made by individuals instead of an appointed board which in essence can be a recipe of corruption," Mr Hikaumba said.

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