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Bus operators: Abide by law, be considerate

BUS operators should not increase bus fares in defiance of laid down procedures by the sole transport regulator, the Road Safety and Traffic Agency (RTSA). Doing so is breaching the law with impunity and inviting its long arm.
RTSA has warned operators that their licences would be suspended, even revoked, should they hike bus fares illegally. The warning makes a lot of sense, as commuters have often complained about the manner in which transport operators have increased bus fares in the past.
RTSA public relations manager Mercy Mwila said on Tuesday that bus operators have been advised to make their intention to increase bus fares known to the agency as a matter of procedure.
What is worrying, based on the warning by RTSA, is that there seems to be a rush among transporters to increase bus fares. What is motivating this rush? Obviously, the answer is that the operators want to secure their profits by saying that certain dynamics in the economy have changed and thus compelling them to make adjustments.
Yes, we know that the cost of fuel has gone up owing to the performance of the Kwacha against the US dollar, but there is need for transport operators to exercise maximum patience to allow for an amicable way of dealing with the issue of transport cost in view of the performance of the local currency.
In their quest to run their business profitably, which is justifiable, being the rationalisation for any business enterprise, we urge the transport operators to be moderate and bring on board the concerns of their customers.
It will make a whole lot of sense if the operators balanced their need to raise bus fares with other concerns in the public as a way of heeding the words of Edmund Burke, a sage, who said: “My good friends, while I do most earnestly recommend you to take care of your health and safety, as things most precious to us, I would not have that care degenerate into an effeminate and over-curious attention, which is always disgraceful to a man’s self, and often troublesome to others”.
This is the very reason why RTSA has counselled them to inform it of their intention to increase the fares. While bus operators are accountable to themselves mainly, the government and RTSA are accountable to the general public, who are essentially the reason they are in existence.
We are in unison with the agency’s counsel to the operators that they should consider the burdern of the people of Zambia before coming up with higher bus fares. The majority of Zambians are finding it extremely hard to make ends meet and one of the things chewing most of their hard-earned income is transport.
On average, there are five people using public transport in every household in our country, which makes it somewhat difficult for our people to comfortably survive. Transport alone, if properly investigated, is taking up a bigger chunk of household incomes than nutrition.
It is not difficult to tell that those who own cars in our country are very few compared to those who use public transport. So the impact of hasty increment of bus fares will adversely affect the majority of Zambians.
The question may not be whether the operaters should not increase the fares, as they will always do as necessity demands. It is on the other hand, to ensure public commuters and the general public at large are insulated against the wanton appetite of some operators to make big money.
It is for this reason that we make our earnest appeal to the bus operators to wait for the final outcome of the meeting RTSA is arranging between them and officials from the Ministry of Transport, Works, Supply and Communications to discuss the proposed increment in bus fares. We hope our appeal is honoured by the transporters.