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Fuel price hike bites

Service providers play wait-and-see game

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John Kapito

Public service vehicle operators responded swiftly to Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera)’s decision to hike prices of diesel, petrol and paraffin, raising fares as one way of sharing expenses with consumers.

On Saturday midnight, Mera announced the long awaited hike in fuel prices, which has seen the price of a litre of diesel jumping by 31.25 percent to K1,470 from K1,120.

The hike has also seen the cost of a litre of petrol leaping by 20 percent from K1,150 to K1,380 while that of paraffin has risen by 14.74 percent from K833.20 to K956.

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As a result, in Blantyre, transport fares for minibuses from Chilomoni Township to Limbe rose from K600 to K700 per passenger, with some minibus owners charging K1,200 for a trip from Lunzu to Limbe, an increase by between K200 and K400, in line with what conductors found convenient.

From Blantyre’s Mibawa minibus terminal to Limbe Market, passengers were parting ways with K400, up from K300. However, the fare for the Limbe Market to Mibawa minibus terminal stage and passenger pick-up and drop points remained at the old fare of K300.

“From Blantyre’s Mibawa Minibus Terminal, we are charging K400 because even minibus drivers and conductors that pick passenger anywhere are charging K400.

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“However, it is becoming difficult to charge K400 from Limbe to Mibawa minibus terminal because minibus operators that pick passengers in undesignated places are charging the old price of K300. To remain competitive, we have to follow suit,” said a minibus driver who only identified himself as Stain.

In the eastern region, those on long trips woke up to the surprising news that fares had been raised, in some cases by up to 50 percent.

For example, commuters were paying K1,500 for a trip from Domasi to Zomba Central Business District, up from K1,000.

Most of those that were charging fares in this manner conduct their business in Zomba Main Bus Depot.

However, the situation was different with taxi operators, who maintained old transport fares, specifically within the city.

Spot-checks at Pep Taxi Rank— where people from Sadzi, Chikanda, Mpunga and New Road board taxis— revealed that transport fares remained at K400 per head.

This was also the case at Hardware Taxi Rank, where people from Mpotola, Ntiya, 3 Miles, Chinamwali, Naisi and Songani, among other places, board taxis.

According to one of the taxi operators, Gift Zuze, they expect that fares would be raised “soon” after consultations with association leaders.

In Lilongwe, residents started feeling the pinch of fuel price rise as early as 4am, when small-scale traders leave home for work stations, with fares being hiked by up to 100 percent in some locations.

Master Mussa, a resident of Area 23, used to pay K300 from Area 23 Mathanki to the main depot; he now has to part ways with K600.

“This is very painful because our buying power has not increased. I have seen several people that used to travel by minibus walk to town today,” Mussa said.

Other passengers said they are now paying K1,000 from Msungwi in Area 25 to the main Lilongwe Bus Depot. Before the fuel price hike, they were paying K700.

One of the minibus drivers, Anson Mgambo, said they had no choice but to increase fares to meet fuel costs.

Although some locations were yet to experience the transport fare hikes, minibus operators said expected to raise the fares any day this week.

Tricycle taxi operators have also increased their fares, in some cases charging K3,500 for a distance that used to attract a charge of K3,000.

One of the coach liners, Sososo, also announced an upward adjustment of its fares by K2,000; such that, from Blantyre to Lilongwe, a passenger has to part ways with K14,000, up from K12,000.

The fare from Lilongwe to Karonga is now pegged at between K19,000 and K21,000.

“We believe our new fares still represent outstanding value for money,” reads a statement released by Sosos Coaches.

On Sunday, Consumers Association of Malawi Executive Director John Kapito welcomed the fuel hike but warned transporters not to take advantage of the situation to overcharge.

The fuel price increase followed the increased operational costs for National Oil Company of Malawi to ensure security of supply.

The Russia-Ukraine war was also considered a contributing factor that pushed up fuel prices as the two countries are some of the largest oil exporters.

Several countries, including neighbouring Mozambique and Zambia, increased fuel prices soon after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 this year.

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