'Govt stinted us on fares'

Staff Writer
Public transport operators are not contented with the recent 20 percent fare increase. Taxi operators say they are still unable to make ends meet due to escalating fuel prices.

"We are not happy," says combi operator on the Gaborone-Mogoditshane's Route 7, Boang Khuthing. "The price of petrol is still high."

The price of petrol is so high that even P100 for fuel falls far too short for a day's work.
The 20 percent increase raised combi fare from P2.50 to P3. But for Khuthing, the public transport business has been turned into a "charity."

He is having the worst of two worlds: He says since the fare raise, passengers have become abusive and vent their frustrations on operators, gnashing their teeth at the least provocation.

But Khuthing takes a sympathetic view of things. He says the government and the private sector should increase the salaries of their employees because "our passengers are not well paid. This is why they become bitter when there is a fare increase".

Seth Pule of the Gaborone-Tlokweng route says their expenses do not cover fuel only; there is vehicle maintenance as well. "Spare parts are expensive," he points out, adding that passengers expect public transport vehicles to be in good condition.

He reckons that the government should have increased combi fare to at least P3.50. But he is well aware of the fact that fare increases result in more people resorting to walking. 

A taxi owner who prefers anonymity also says the recent fare increase is not bringing improved business because fuel prices are high. Taxi fare, which is now P3.60 from P3, should have been increased to P4 or P5.

But another cabbie, Keletso Gabotwesepe, is more worried about pirate taxi "who take food out of our mouths than by fuel prices". He says the 20 percent increase could make a difference

if pirate operators were absent.

"I think there could be some difference," Gabotwesepe says. "If it was not for pirate operators, we could be making something." Some of the pirate operators are actually licensed for Mogoditshane but have abandoned their routes, he alleges.

He says the police often fine them, but the piracy persists. He says he and others are planning to take the matter up the high command of the police.

But be that as it may, it turns out that some operators have not effected the 20 percent increase. On Gaborone West Route 1, passengers still pay P2.50 in combis.

It seems it is the way the operators do business: when the fares was P2.50, passengers on this route rode for P2.00. The operators say it is the way to have an edge on competition on the more lucrative route to the Gaborone West industrial estate.

Paseka Kwada says he does feel the pinch, but good business says they cannot effect the recent increase because they share the route with Gaborone-Mogoditshane combis. "This is why we are forced to charge less in order to attract passengers," Kwada says. "We just want to survive."

However, he says they keep the option of effecting the increase if the situation deteriorates.

But passengers do not share the same views with the public transport operators. Keolopile Dirame, a student, says the 20 percent increase was just too much. Afterall, some of the combis are in bad condition and "sometimes they want to pack four passengers on a seat meant for three," Dirame argues.

The personal hygiene of some conductors leaves much to be desired while some drivers are reckless.



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