Thousands of commuters in Bulawayo who rely on the government subsidised urban transport system, were Wednesday stranded after most Zupco buses plying the city's major routes were grounded due to diesel shortages.
The State-owned Zupco, early this year partnered with privately owned public transport operators in a new system aimed at easing urban transport woes as fuel shortages and inflation took their toll leading to consistent price hikes.
The Zupco buses currently charge $1 per trip while the private commuter omnibuses charge as much as $4 for the same trip.
NewZimbabwe.com news crew witnessed scores of commuters stranded at most bus termini in the western suburbs. Some of the buses were also parked at the company's depot in the city.
"I have been here since morning waiting to board a cheap Zupco bus to town but there are no buses. If I don't get one, I will have to walk into town because I cannot afford the fares being charged by private commuter omnibus operators," said a stranded commuter at Tshabalala bus terminus.
Another commuter, Ishmael Moyo said he failed to get into town because there were no Zupco buses operating.
"I normally board the early bus when going to the market to buy vegetables. Today, there were no buses. The only transport which was there were private kombis which were charging $6 per trip," said Moyo.
One Zupco bus driver told this publication that there was no fuel at the depot.
"Each bus is allocated 100 litres of diesel for every two days. We have not been receiving our allocation for the past two days. We had been promised diesel on Monday but we did not receive anything," said the driver who requested anonymity.
Private commuter omnibus operators have taken advantage of the situation by raising their fares from $4 to $5 per trip.
"We knew the government will not sustain this facility for a long time .Now we are trying to recoup losses which we have been making as a result of these cheap Zupco buses.
"Our only hope is that the situation will continue while we make money. This sounds insensitive to the plight of the struggling commuters but these buses have pushed a lot of us out of business," said a commuter omnibus operator who refused to be named.
For the past week, most service stations in the city have been without diesel with long fuel queues resurfacing despite the continued spiral of fuel prices.
Repeated efforts to get a comment from Zupco officials in Bulawayo were all in vain.