Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Informal sector shares experience on recent Public Transport Strike

On Thursday evening Minister of Transport and Public works Eric Molale announced an increment of 15 percent in transport fares.

In the midst of the cease of operations by Public Transport Operators, Small Micro and Medium Enterprises (SMMEs) based near town centres and bus ranks experienced setbacks due to the situation. While some SMMEs could not come to their respective spots at the bus rank, those who managed to come to town experienced little to no foot traffic in the three days public transport was not available.

The Bus Rank Parcel Counter business assists people who are travelling to temporarily leave their luggage in a safe space and go handle other errands without feeling overwhelmed. It has offices in Gaborone, Gabane and Serowe.

Bus Rank Parcel Counter owner Phuti Babotlhale shared that “as a business based in a bus rank our customers are commuters of public transport. When there is no public transport it means there is no business for us. We have been opening shop for half a day and closing up earlier than we usually would.”

Babotlhale shared it’s not only them who are experiencing challenges due to the situation, as even some hawkers who operate next to them have not come to work at all.

“It’s really tough for people who sell at the bus rank and these three days were too much for a small business person. If it continued for a fourth day, it means we would have lost a week in the month of May were by we did not sell. Personally, by Day 3, I thought things would have been better but it seemed like it would go on for longer and this affected our business greatly,” Babotlhale said.

Babotlhale says that he has observed that this suspension in public transport operations affected everybody from hawkers at the rank to those selling near bus stops in communities and even bus boys who help people commute.

In response to the situation Babotlhale shared that he opted for less operating hours and he personally assists his two employees with transport. For employees based in Gabane and Serowe they do not struggle with transport as some live near the rank and they also operate under the same hours as in Gaborone.

Thusanang Bagwebi Association, an association of SMMEs more especially hawkers and other traders based at the Gaborone bus rank was the most affected. The Association and its members in the three days did not set up shop at all, as some rely on public transport to move between bus rank and their homes while others were disappointed by the lack of foot traffic at the bus rank.

The Association’s committee advisor Gaopalelwe Mooki highlighted that Government and Public Transport Operators, should make their decisions with the commuter needs at the forefront.

He revealed that the reason why they have not come through to set up shop during the past week is because there was no transport and people due to the suspension of services.

Despite Public Transport Operators actions affecting their businesses, Mooki understands the Public Transport Operators concerns. However, he says “they could have at least approached Transport Ministry leadership and not ceased operations. Public Transport Operators could have consulted every stakeholder concerned. We are their customers as well.”

Mooki says this has a negative trickle down effect on commuters as they are expected to budget for rising costs on top of rising costs. He advises that Government and Public Transport Operator should consider the needs of the masses when negotiating and nobody’s needs should outweigh another.


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