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Cablegate: Harare's Commuter Blues

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS HARARE 000178

SIPDIS

STATE FOR AF/S AND AF/EX
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR JFRAZER
USDOC FOR 2037 DIEMOND
PASS USTR ROSA WHITAKER
TREASURY FOR ED BARBER AND C WILKINSON
USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON

E. O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN ECON ZI
SUBJECT: Harare's Commuter Blues

1. Summary: Zimbabwe's foreign exchange shortage has
sidelined most passenger vans, transforming a short
commute into a twice daily ordeal for residents of
Harare's high-density suburbs. 15-30 minute treks now
take 2-3 hours, a potential trigger for social unrest.
End Summary.

Few vans still operating
------------------------
2. We recently observed the early morning commute from
Harare's townships and the evening return from the city
center. Residents tell us their commute has never been
as grueling, with most privately-owned vans grounded for
want of parts or fuel. Harare is still -- compared with
other developing world capitals -- small, sparsely-
populated and unchaotic. By private vehicle, it only
takes 15-20 minutes to drive downtown from the city's
most distant townships. In fact, many residents walk 6-
10 kilometers to/from work, although this often takes
several hours each way and is obviously less practical
for those in professional attire.

Commuter Angst
--------------
3. For most, getting a spot in a crowded van is a
cheerless and demeaning process. In the morning, we
witnessed hoards of commuters, anxious about disciplinary
sanctions for tardiness, jockeying with each other for
the few vans that pulled up. Many young men hang from
fenders and side-mirrors while the old and meek stand
little chance. Most vans do not service more distant
suburbs like Kuwadzana and Dzivaresekwa, preferring to
cash in on more frequent runs between close-in suburbs
and downtown. So some commuters say they walk an hour to
the close-in suburbs, then wait up to 2 hours for a van
to the city. For the evening trip home, the mood turns
more somber, with stoic and dejected commuters sitting
for hours in curbside lines. Few converse.

4. Commuters say the worst element is uncertainty. A
worker who begins at 8:00am might be lucky to get a ride
at 5:00am, then arrive at her office at 5:30am with 2.5
hours to kill. The next morning she will retrace her
steps and not get a lift until 8:00am. By the late-
morning or evening, vans solicit 3-5 times the normal
fare from increasingly desperate workers, who tell us
employers and supervisors from low-density suburbs are
either oblivious or unsympathetic to their transport
woes.

Comment
-------
5. Commuters from high-density areas now appear more
stunned than angry that their lifestyles have so rapidly
deteriorated. This -- along with undernourishment and
sheer exhaustion -- may account for their seeming
acquiescence. If the situation worsens, however, we
suspect that stoicism could give way to rage.

Sullivan

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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