Ndola bus drivers protest, commuters stranded

Sat, 22 Oct 2016 10:49:38 +0000

COMMUTERS in Chifubu Township on the Copperbelt were on Thursday left stranded due to the unavailability of the buses as drivers parked their vehicles in protest against the new fare charts following the increase of fuel pump price last week.

A check by the Daily Nation to the Township found that buses were parked at the local station as others took to the road to skid while others monitored vehicles leaving the Township if they had commuters on board.

Chairman for the drivers working from Route, Bus and Taxi Drivers’ Association Joseph Phiri said in an interview that drivers had downed tools to protest the recent price chart released for local routes.

Mr. Phiri said the drivers were angered that stakeholders only arrived at increasing fares to twenty five percent which he indicated was not tarring with the recent increment of fuel prices.

Another driver who refused to be identified asked the Government to go back to the round table and revise the figures released.

He said the difference at which drivers were buying fuel was huge compared to bus fares which were being charged.

He said the drivers have resolved not to return to work until their complaint was addressed.

“Let the State be fair. We are buying fuel at K 9.70 ngwee and commuters fare has been increased from K3, 50 ngwee to K4 a difference of 50 ngwee.

Surely this is our source of bread and butter, the difference is not adding up,” he said.

However, Road Transport and Safety Agency (RTSA) public Relations Manager Fredrick Mubanga said the agency was resolving the complaint from the Head Office.

Mr. Mubanga disclosed that the agency had sat with stakeholders which included the association which represented drivers in the country and the percentage was arrived at during the same meeting.He said percentages varied from local, inter-mine and long distances.

He stated that for local routes within town, bus fares would be increased by 25 percent, inter towns such as between Ndola and Kitwe, it was pegged at 18 percent while long distances would be increased by 15 percent.

“So let the drivers calculate the old fare charts by the percentages indicating, then what they get is the new fare,” he said.

Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening drivers operating on Lubuto, Masala and Twapia route protested demanding to have the bus fare charts released.

Commuters were left stranded as others walked their way back home.

“What are we waiting for? Are we going to eat the council? We will increase with or without the permission of the local authority. So today no one is loading a bus with the old price.

“If we find you, it will be war! This economy is so bad and we have families to survive,” Lubuto bus drivers’ representative Everisto Chisanga.

Chisanga said the drivers were getting impatient with the Ndola City Council for the release of the effected new prices charts when it’s them who were feeling the impact.

But Ndola City Council public relations officer Hamson Chisenga said the Council was waiting on RTSA to release the document.

Mr. Chisenga appealed to drivers to exercise patience and use the normal route to express displeasure and not deny commuters services.

He said the local authority would issue the gate charts as soon as stakeholders responsible finalised.”We appreciate the fact that they are going through a lot of pressure now but we want to ask that they should please bear with us. We are working assiduously to resolve the issues,’’ he said.The Energy Regulation Board last week announced a revision of fuel prices owing to “extreme volatility” of the kwacha against the US dollar.Petrol prices have risen to K13.70 from K9.87, diesel prices are now at K11.40 from K8.59 per litre, signifying a K2.81 increase. A litre of kerosene is now fetching for K8.03 from K6.12 while low sulphur diesel is K13.69 per litre from K10.88.

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