Commuters and taxi drivers in Mpumalanga despair as…

When farm laborer December Mbokodo (40) pays for his monthly bus fare for August, it will cost him almost R30 more than the July fare. This price increase comes on top of the 6% annual increase it has been paying since April.

“It’s too expensive… life is difficult,” Mbokodo said. “What if the price of gasoline goes up, up, up? At the end of this year, payments for the bus will increase further. »

Commuters from a rural area outside White River, Mpumalanga, take an afternoon bus home. As a legacy of apartheid land use planning, many commuters have to take multiple buses and travel about two hours each way from home to work.
(Photo: Maru Attwood)

Each day, Mbokodo leaves his home near Hazyview at 5 a.m. each day to begin his two-hour journey in a Buscor bus. Buscor is the largest bus company in the Mpumalanga Lowveld and the only service serving Mbokodo’s workplace on a macadamia farm just outside White River.

For the first time in Buscor’s history, rising gasoline prices forced the company to raise rates outside of its annual April increase.

“They have already increased salaries…I don’t think they will increase again,” said Sphiwe Nyalunge, a 36-year-old colleague from Mbokodo.

Without wage increases, workers will soon face a cost of living crisis. The combination of rising transport and food prices is difficult for Nyalunge to bear.

commuter fuel bus
A commuter newspaper showing Buscor fares at the Mbombela central bus depot. Under pressure from rising petrol prices, Buscor (the largest bus company in the Mpumalanga Lowveld) is increasing fares on top of its annual increase in April. This is the first time in the company’s history that it has increased its prices twice a year. (Photo: Maru Attwood)

“Sometimes you spend R1,500 on groceries. Now 1,500 rand does nothing.

On Wednesday, Statistics South Africa reported that the consumer price index for June had climbed to 7.4%. That’s more than any inflation South Africans have suffered in 13 years. The last time it was higher was during the global financial crisis.

Rising transportation costs are one of the main components of the rise in the CPI. SA Statistics reported: “Transportation goods and services recorded an average annual price increase of 20%.”

People who rely on the taxi industry – the primary mode of transport for millions of South Africans – are feeling the sharp price hike.

“If we don’t raise the price, we go bankrupt. If we increase the price, we lose commuters,” lamented Bongani Dube, the secretary of the Topstar Taxi association in Mbombela. It’s a lose-lose situation for the industry.

commuter fuel taxi
Frank Maphanga (51) is a taxi driver from Pienaar, a town 30 km from Mbombela in Mpumalanga. He said rising fuel prices had made it difficult for his family to survive and caused disputes between taxi drivers and owners. (Photo: Maru Attwood)

Frank Maphanga is a 51-year-old taxi driver from Pienaar, a town 30 km from Mbombela. It leads local routes from the central taxi rank in Mbombela to areas around the town.

Since the rise in gasoline prices, Maphanga says he has been running at a loss.

“It causes a quarrel between us, the drivers, and the owners… the taxi owners. Because we’re in business, and if you’re in business, you need to make a profit. Maphanga has three grandchildren. “They all depend on the money I get from this taxi.”

Fuel price dube for commuters
The secretary of Mbombela’s Topstar Taxi Association, Bongani Dube, said fuel price hikes have forced the associations to increase taxi fares by 10%. “It’s impacting us, it’s impacting our commuters,” he said. (Photo: Maru Attwood)

To accommodate rising petrol prices, taxi associations in Mpumalanga have reported raising fares by around 10%. But increases of even a few rands can have a big impact on commuters.

fuel prices for commuters
Zanele Moiene (44) is a domestic worker from Msholozi, Mpumalanga. With the increase in taxi fares, she has less money to spend on groceries and building her house. (Photo: Maru Attwood)

Zanele Moiene (44) is a domestic worker from Msholozi, Mpumalanga who travels to work by taxi. Now spending more on fares, she says, “I have to cut back on my shopping. I have to shoot them and the kids complain.

Meanwhile, the money she spends on savings or longer-term projects, like building her house, dries up. “I used to build on my own, but now I quit…I just work for food and transportation,” Moiene said.

The increase in taxi fares comes weeks after taxi drivers in the region tried to demonstrate on July 6 to pressure the government to tackle the price hike.

fuel prices for makwakwa commuters
Sifiso Makwakwa (36) transports passengers on local taxi routes around Mbombela, Mpumalanga. He worries about rising fuel prices and is disappointed that the closure of Mbombela in early July did nothing to force lower petrol prices. (Photo: Maru Attwood)

Sifiso Makwakwa (36) is a taxi driver who participated in the shutdown. Drivers closed roads and prevented people from filling up at gas stations. Makwakwa said: “Our government these days when you talk they are slow to respond. But when you start getting a reaction, that’s when they start listening and they start doing what you want.

After two days, the shutdown ended unsuccessfully.

Maphanga said, “Because there was only Mbombela, we received no support from the government. Our main objective was to get the government to pay attention to this rise in oil. But unfortunately it didn’t work as expected. It was just a loss… We proved ourselves wrong.

Road closures and disrupted supply chains caused by the cost of shutdown The mining industries of Mpumalangawhich will only aggravate economic tensions.

It’s not the government, it’s the international

Dube, speaking on behalf of the taxi associations in Mbombela, pointed out that the closure was not sanctioned by the associations, but was carried out by drivers acting on their own accord. He said: “We understand…we watch the news…it’s not the government that drives prices up. It’s international. »

The scale of the problem is enormous. The price of oil is set by a global industry that makes profits of $2.8 billion a day, while fueling the climate crisis. And prices are pushed higher by Russia’s war, more than 8,000 km into Ukraine.

But the localized impacts are intense. Farm workers and commuters suffer as basic necessities become unaffordable. Transport workers in Mpumalanga tried to effect change as drastically as possible, to no avail.

There is a feeling of helplessness and frustration among the people because the causes of their suffering are global financial and military crises that are not their fault. DM


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