By Marrian Rushwaya
The Passengers Association of Zimbabwe (PAZ) has hit out at Energy Minister Soda Zhemu for “careless” utterances after the top government official this week rhetorically urged hard-pressed motorists to use ZUPCO buses for cheaper transport if they felt fuel had become unaffordable.
Fuel prices twice went up in a space of a week with government linking the raging Russia-Ukraine conflict as the former was the second biggest producer of petroleum products in the world.
At US$1,68 per litre now, diesel is 24 cents up from the February price of US$1,44, while petrol is now pegged at US$1,67 per litre.
“The war situation in Ukraine is constraining production and international movement of the commodity. It is a precarious situation; beyond our control,” Zhemu told the media earlier this week.
Motorists feel the Zimbabwean government could still do something to mitigate the hardship brought on locals by the situation.
But Zhemu chose to rub it in when he urged vehicle owners who could not withstand the price surge to park their vehicles and use ZUPCO.
In a statement Friday, PAZ organizing secretary and acting spokesperson Andrew Chibanda said the minister should show compassion with the suffering masses.
“The transport is already in its doldrums and the pronouncement made by the minister to park private vehicles is throwing a petrol bomb to the already delineating situation,” Chibanda said.
Instead of subjecting citizens to arrogant statements, Chibanda said the minister should be thankful that that the private vehicles were already “bridging the gap” after ZUPCO has failed to meet the urban commuter transport demand.
He challenged the minister to try using public transport on one occasion so he could appreciate the hardship being experienced by ordinary citizens.
Chibanda added, “As passengers, we are saying what the minister is saying is not in touch with reality. Adding a wound on another wound. That’s rhetoric from a numskull.
“Are these ministers representing the people or something else that doesn’t exist? Why do ministers always stick to blame game and jeopardize people all the time thereby compromising the status core of everyone? This is rebellious from a minister and passengers views.”
The passenger lobby spokesperson said the statement by the minister was “careless and rhetoric”.