Government has, with effect from today, slashed Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO) bus fares by 50 percent, for both urban and rural trips, a situation that will see urban travellers paying 50 cents from $1 for distances within a 20km radius.
A distance of up to 30km has now been pegged at 75 cents, from $1,50 while the fare for a distance of up to 40km has been reduced to $1 from $2.
The announcement was made by Finance and Economic Development Secretary Mr George Guvamatanga in a circular addressed to his counterpart in the Ministry of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing, Mr George Magosvonge, in fulfilment of Operation Restore Sanity in the Urban Centres.
"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," wrote Mr Guvamatanga.
In an interview, Mr Guvamatanga said Government was now pursuing procurement of additional buses to complement those already on the road.
"We expect a consignment of more buses to come next week. Our expectation is that because of reduced fares there should be increased demand on the buses. So the focus now is increasing the number of buses available, for both urban and rural populace, we have actually realised that transport costs have been a major challenge that the travelling public has been facing.
"Not only are we working on increasing the buses, we are also trying to ensure that there is now a set timetable rather than waiting for 120 passenger bus to fill up. We are also going to look at ensuring the buses being available after hours, there will be reduced coverage but there will be still be there into the late hours of the day," said Mr Guvamatanga.
He said they were working with a local bank to ensure that people could make advance payments using electronic system covering longer periods and would simply draw down against what they would have paid so as to ensure convenience and efficiency.
Mr Guvamatanga said adequate measures had been made to ensure smooth supply of fuel.
He defended Government decision to subsidise transport costs saying it was sustainable.
Mr Guvamatanga said any responsible Government should provide safety nets to vulnerable members even in the wake of austerity measures.
"A subsidy is good as long as it is quantified, budgeted and targeted, and in this particular instance we are targeting the most vulnerable members of the public and we know exactly how much it going to cost and we have budgeted for it. It is very much sustainable," he said.
"Any responsible Government, even during austerity measures, should provide safety nets for the vulnerable members of our society. There is no austerity without social safety net. It will be a very irresponsible for Government not to have social safety nets."
Mr Guvamatanga noted that transport costs were some of the factors affecting the most vulnerable in society, who include civil servants.
The latest intervention dovetails with President Mnangagwa's promise last January to cushion workers through non-monetary incentives and relief actions amid rising cost of living.
Mass public system is seen as a panacea to problems faced by the commuting public which has been held at ransom by private, deregulated players and Government expects a peak of 3000 buses at the rollout of the long awaited framework.