OMUTHIYA - Fares have been hiked across the country as long distance bus operators implement government’s social distancing order to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The sudden increase in the fares has sparked outrage, with travellers bemoaning the skyrocketing charges, while the Namibia Bus and Taxi Association (Nabta) and Namibian Public Passenger and Transport Association (NPPTA) distanced themselves from the increased fares.
Passengers travelling from the north and northeastern regions are now being charged N$500 to Windhoek, as opposed to between N$300 and N$400 for a one-way ticket.
Social media has been abuzz with many passengers airing their frustrations and anger towards the fare hike. New Era observed on social media a group of passengers from Zambezi region who expressed anger after being informed that buses will now start charging N$500 across the board irrespective of the destination.
Meanwhile, such increases have been strongly condemned by Nabta and NPPTA who said such hikes have not been done procedurally and remain invalid.
NPPTA national adviser Abel Mubu confirmed such price hikes, but was quick to say they were not done procedurally as the association was not informed of such a move neither did they receive increment request from the operators.
“I am aware of the recent development and I consulted these people and advised them to follow the right channel on how to request for an increase. This was not communicated to our association and to that of the works and transport ministry, who are equally surprised upon hearing,” stressed Mubu. “Even if the increment was approved, they still need to inform the public 14 days before effective date of such hikes so that they can prepare well. So, as it stands, whether it is approved or not, they still need to give notice. By law, hike fare increase should not always be more than 10%.” Nabta interim deputy chairperson Pendapala Nakathingo said as much as they do sympathise with customers, they have little to do to change the status quo, saying operators have indicated that they will be charging an additional $100 to cover for the loss and fuel.
“These increases were necessitated by the lockdown which suspended some seats. We do sympathise with customers too and it is wrong to overcharge unreasonably. My appeal to our members is to wait as we address with government on how they can be assisted and get recourse. As an association, we are working on it. I therefore condemn any increases as we have not applied for any as an association,” Nakathingo said. According to the new directive, a 16-seater minibus is allowed to carry 10 passengers, while a 22 and 28-seater should carry 14 passengers only. A sedan must have three passengers, while a seven-seater car, should carry four passengers only.